Kamala Harris vows $310 million US relief as Central America tackles migration

WION Web Team
Washington, United States Published: Apr 27, 2021, 07:06 AM(IST)

File photo of US Vice President Kamala Harris Photograph:( Reuters )

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Harris, who leads President Joe Biden's efforts to address the influx of migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to the US-Mexico border, met with Giammattei by videoconference, prior to her visit to Central America scheduled for June

Vice President Kamala Harris told Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei during a virtual call Monday the US will give $310 million in humanitarian relief to Central America, her office said, as the region tackles a wave of migration north.

Harris, who leads President Joe Biden's efforts to address the influx of migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to the US-Mexico border, met with Giammattei by videoconference, prior to her visit to Central America scheduled for June. 

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The meeting, which was held virtually, was Harris' second conversation with Guatemala's leader in less than a month - a sign of the best opportunity she has to build a partnership in the region. She previously spoke with him on March 30.

Harris has yet to speak with leaders of Honduras and El Salvador.

"We want to work with you... in a way that will bring hope to the people of Guatemala, that there will be an opportunity for them if they stay at home," Harris said, adding that she will visit the region in June.

President Giammattei said Guatemala is looking forward to her visit but wants to reach an agreement on issues before she travels.

"I believe that we should build a roadmap between governments... so that we can reach an agreement... (and) can work on this very hard road that we have ahead of us," he said.

On April 5, Guatemala said it was purchasing 16 million Russian Sputnik V vaccines to inoculate about half the country's population.

Harris' office did not comment on the issue, but an administration official said it was not politically tenable to assure vaccine supplies to other countries before inoculating every American.

Other problems have also emerged. Guatemalan lawmakers recently refused to swear in a corruption-fighting judge, Constitutional Court President Gloria Porras, whom US officials had seen as key to the country's fight against graft.

In addition the meeting on Monday, Harris will also participate in a virtual roundtable with representatives from Guatemalan community based-organizations on Tuesday.

Biden has asked Congress for $861 million to address the causes that drive irregular immigration from Central America, within the framework of his $4 billion plan for the region. 

His proposal is included in the budget project for next year that has yet to be discussed and approved by legislators.   

More than 172,000 undocumented immigrants, including nearly 19,000 unaccompanied minors, were detained in March at the southern border of the United States, a rise of 71 percent in a month and the highest level in 15 years. 

Most of the migrants come from the three countries of the Central American Northern Triangle. That area, vulnerable to natural disasters, was hit by two devastating hurricanes in November and is struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic and a prolonged drought. 

Many migrants in recent weeks say they were given new hope by Biden's reversal of the hardline immigration policies of his predecessor Donald Trump.

The changes include allowing unaccompanied children to stay and be united with relatives living inside the United States.

The number of unaccompanied children detained after crossing the border illegally, or trying to sneak through official entry ports, doubled in March from February to 18,890, according to the CBP.

(With inputs from agencies)

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