WH unveils strategy on addressing migration causes in Central America

Washington: The administration of US President Joe Biden on Thursday released a sweeping strategy to address the root causes of migration from Central American nations to the US, which has been rising to the point where it is posing an increasing challenge to the administration.

The 18-page report, released by the National Security Council, specifies the strategy by dividing it into several pillars, including addressing economic insecurity and inequality, combating corruption and strengthening democratic governance, and promoting respect for human rights, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The pillars also include addressing violence and crimes committed by criminal gangs and trafficking networks, as well as curbing sexual, gender-based and domestic violence.

Vice President Kamala Harris said in a statement accompanying the report that although the US has engaged with Central America for the past decades, “the engagement has often not been consistent. And over the last few years, the United States significantly pulled back from work in the region.”

Harris was tapped by Biden in March as the liaison person leading the administration’s efforts to address the root causes of migration by engaging with the Northern Triangle nations in Central America — namely El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — and Mexico.

Along with the just-released plan, the White House also rolled out the “Collaborative Migration Management Strategy,” which included several “lines of efforts,” such as stabilising populations, improving and expanding temporary labour programs and expanding access to lawful pathways for protection and opportunity in the US.

The number of migrants encountered at the US-Mexico border reached a yearly high in June, totalling 188,829 people and up 5 per cent from the May figure, according to new statistics released earlier this month by Customs and Border Protection.

Polls conducted since the Biden-Harris administration took office have shown that immigration is one of the most poorly-handled policy arenas by the administration. Biden is under pressure from both the Republicans, who attacked him for reversing the restrictive immigration policies during the Donald Trump administration, as well as progressive Democrats and immigration advocates, who said the current administration has not done enough to help migrants.

In the meantime, recent approval ratings for Harris, a longtime state prosecutor boasting ample experience in law enforcement, indicate that the vice president is viewed less favourably than the President.

Harris earned a combined unfavourable rating of 46 per cent, according to an aggregate average compiled by RealClearPolitics. That number is 3 percentage points below Biden’s 43 per cent in the same category.

Specifically on immigration, the vice president sparked criticism from immigration advocates during her trip to Mexico and Guatemala in June, where she told migrants “do not come” and said they would be turned back if they came to the border.

The negative implications of the administration’s handling of the immigration issue may continue to loom large as the 2022 midterm elections near. The space for policy errors or failures in communicating its message is very little for the Democratic Party, as it must fight to keep its slim majorities in both the House and the Senate.