WASHINGTON >> Vice President Kamala Harris today announced the commitments of a dozen companies and organizations to invest in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to address the root causes of human migration. region.
Participants in the new program include corporate giants Mastercard and Microsoft, as well as Pro Mujer, a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing help to low-income women in Latin America, along with the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and the World Economic Forum.
Harris posted what his office described as a “call to action” for companies and nonprofits to make new commitments to promote economic opportunities in Central America. In an act announcing the initiative, Harris stated that private companies have “a very important role to play in job creation and the promotion of economic opportunities and long-term development.”
Effort leaders joined Harris on Thursday virtually and in person for the event at his ceremonial office.
Luis von Ahn, CEO of the Duolingo language learning app, said today in a blog post that some 500,000 people in the Northern Triangle region already use Duolingo’s free advertising app, primarily to learn English and improve their job prospects. The company also offers a $ 49 online English proficiency test accepted by many colleges in the United States and elsewhere and, as part of the White House call, said it will waive the cost of the test for many Central Americans.
Von Ahn said he grew up in Guatemala City in the 1980s and 1990s, a “particularly insecure time in my country’s history,” but he was lucky to be able to go to a good school and come to the United States to do so. higher education.
The goal of the new effort is to focus aid on supporting vulnerable populations such as women and youth, and investing in Internet access, job training programs, and efforts to combat food shortages.
He is part of Harris’ role in addressing the root causes of migration to the United States, a task that President Joe Biden commissioned him in March. Harris has had several calls with the presidents of Guatemala and Mexico and has held meetings with interest groups, policy experts and companies in the region.
She plans to visit Guatemala and Mexico in early June to make her first trip abroad as vice president.
Harris stressed the need for economic development in the region and public-private partnerships to meet the challenges. The administration supports a proposal to provide $ 7 billion in assistance to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to help combat poverty and violence that lead people to flee to the United States.
But the increase in border migration has become a major political headache for Harris and Biden. Republicans accuse them of inaction for what they say is a crisis created in part by the president’s decision to stop construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall and end some restrictions on asylum seekers.
April was the second most recorded month of unaccompanied children at the border, after the all-time high in March, and the total Border Patrol meetings in April increased by 3% compared to March, marking the highest level. high since April 2000. The April meetings are not directly comparable because most of the detainees were quickly expelled from the United States by pandemic-related federal powers that deny the right to seek asylum and, on expulsion, do not involve no legal penalty, many try to cross themselves several times.
The increase has strained the capacity of the Border Patrol and the Department of Health and Human Services, which keeps minors in shelters until they can be housed with relatives or sponsors in the United States, while authorities determine whether they have a legal right to stay in the country, either through asylum or for some other reason. It has also provoked criticism from Republicans, who point to Harris and Biden’s decision not to visit the border to analyze the situation as proof of their negligence.
While migration will be key to Harris’ visit, security cooperation will also be discussed. On Thursday, David Cohen, deputy director of the CIA, had scheduled meetings in Mexico City with officials from the Mexican Army, Navy, and National Intelligence Center.
The Mexican Congress passed a law in December that restricts U.S. agents in Mexico and eliminates their diplomatic immunity. Experts say these restrictions could aggravate the security relationship with the United States, which provides much of Mexico’s intelligence on drug trafficking and money laundering cases.