Biden, Harris unveil strategies to address ‘root causes’ of immigration

The Biden administration on Thursday rolled out its strategies to address the root causes of immigration, a step officials call a “core component” of efforts to establish a “fair, orderly, and humane immigration system.” 

President Biden, in March, tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the administration’s diplomatic efforts to address the “root causes” of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. 

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“In Central America, the root causes of migration run deep—and migration from the region has a direct impact on the United States,” Harris said in a statement. “For that reason, our nation must consistently engage with the region to address the hardships that cause people to leave Central America and come to our border.” 

The vice president, in rolling out the new strategies, said that under the Biden Administration, she and the president have “restarted” U.S. engagement with Central American governments to create a “comprehensive” strategy to address the root causes of migration. 

“First, addressing the root causes of migration is critical to our overall immigration effort,” Harris explained. “Second, providing relief is not sufficient to stem migration from the region.” 

Harris said that the root causes “must be addressed both in addition to relief efforts—and apart from these efforts.” 

“In everything we do, we must target our efforts in those areas of highest-out migration—and ensure that these programs meet the highest standards of accountability and effectiveness,” Harris said. 

“Third, unless we address all of the root causes, problems will persist,” Harris added, noting that it is the “goal” of the administration to deal with “corruption” in the region, and “mitigate the lack of economic and educational opportunities on the ground.” 

“Fourth, and most importantly, the United States cannot do this work alone,” Harris said. “Our strategy is far-reaching—and focuses on our partnerships with other governments, international institutions, businesses, foundations, and civil society.” 

Harris said that, at this point, the governments of Mexico, Japan and Korea, and the United Nations have joined the United States in providing “relief” to the region. 

Harris also called on the private sector—in the United States and abroad—to invest in the region. 

“Private sector investment not only boosts economic opportunity, but also incentivizes regional governments to create the conditions on the ground to attract such investment,” Harris said. 

“Ultimately, our administration will consistently engage in the region to address the root cases of migration. We will built on what works, and we will pivot away from what does not work,” Harris said. “It will not be easy, and progress will not be instantaneous, but we are committed to getting it right.” 

She added: “Because we know The strength and security of the United States depends on the implementation of strategies like this one.” 

The Root Causes Strategy “identifies, prioritizes and coordinates actions to improve security, governance, human rights, and economic conditions in the region,” while integrating various U.S. government tools including “diplomacy, foreign assistance, public diplomacy and sanctions.” 

Senior administration officials said implementation of the strategy will rely on the expertise of a wide range of U.S. departments and agencies, with support from governments inside and outside the region, the private sector, Congress, and more. Officials said the U.S. will coordinate a “place-based” approach, targeting areas where migrants are most likely to come from. 

The strategy, according to officials, has been broken down into five pillars: addressing economic insecurity and inequality; combatting corruption, strengthening democratic governance and advancing the rule of law; promoting respect for human rights, labor rights and a free press; countering and preventing violence, extortion, and other crimes perpetrated by criminal gangs, trafficking networks, and other organized criminal organizations; and combating sexual, gender-based and domestic violence. 

The administration on Thursday also rolled out its Migration Strategy, which officials called the first U.S. government strategy focused on strengthening cooperative efforts to manage safe, orderly and humane migration in North and Central America. 

The Migration Strategy includes efforts to stabilize populations with acute needs; expand access to international protection; expand access to protection in countries of origin; improve and expand temporary labor programs in the region with worker protections; assist and reintegrate returned persons; foster “secure and humane” management of borders; strengthen regional public messaging about migration; and expand access to “lawful pathways” for protection and opportunities in the United States. 

Senior administration officials said that Biden and Harris “inherited a broken and dysfunctional system,” acknowledging that there were “a number of problems that pre-existed the Trump administration,” but said the Trump administration “made them so much worse.” 

“For this strategy to be successful, we will have to undertake sustained efforts, which is both hard work over time, but also a very hard-nosed approach to having an impact on the ground for the people of the region who are suffering so badly.” 

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The administration’s strategies come as migrant crossings into the United States across the U.S.-Mexico border hit a 10-year high. 

More than 188,000 migrants were encountered in June. Encounters of family units, meanwhile, surged by 25% to 55,805 from 44,746 in May.

Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report. 

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