Harris announces funding to address root causes of migration crisis

WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday announced nearly $1 billion in new pledges from private companies to support communities in Central America, part of the Biden administration’s efforts to keep migrants from fleeing. towards the US border.

Ten companies, including Nestle, Target and Columbia Sportswear, said they would collectively spend $950 million on projects in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to support farmers, create textile jobs and invest in telecommunications and other industries.

The effort comes as U.S.-Mexico border crossings remain at record highs, posing logistical and humanitarian challenges for President Biden and drawing intense criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill.

House Republicans have begun investigating the administration’s border efforts and have said they may pursue the removal of Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the Homeland Security Secretary.

The Vice President’s announcement came Monday afternoon as she met with a number of companies.

This was in addition to corporate commitments through the Partnership for Central America, a nonprofit created in mid-2021 to facilitate Ms Harris’ efforts to rally support for the region. The partnership previously announced approximately $3 billion in future spending from various companies.

The idea, according to the Vice President’s aides, is to tackle what she calls the root causes of migration: the poverty, corruption, climate change and political instability that drive people to leave their homes in search of a better life.

Administration officials said the program has already generated results, though they acknowledged in a call with reporters that they could not specifically document those effects. Since mid-2021, officials said, migration from the three countries has decreased by 71%.

“Through this public-private partnership, approximately 47 companies and organizations are collaborating across the financial services, textile and apparel, agriculture, technology, telecommunications, and nonprofit sectors to strengthen the economic security of the region,” the White House wrote in a released fact sheet. Monday.

But even those involved in the effort say there are challenges to its success, especially in the short term.

Ajay Banga, the former executive chairman of Mastercard and one of the business executives who worked with Ms Harris on the Central America fundraising effort, said it was unlikely to do a difference in the coming months or even years.

“If someone who speaks to you declares victory, he is mad,” Banga said. ” There’s work. There is real work there. These 3 billion dollars are interesting, but they are not yet implemented.

Mr. Banga and others said they were impressed with Ms. Harris’ preparation and her knowledgeable behind-the-scenes questions on the issue. But he said the administration’s emphasis on oversight when investing the funds and deterring illegal migration was key to its success.

“So it can make a difference over five or 10 years,” Mr Banga said.

There are also other challenges. People who have worked with the administration over the past year and a half have said that private investment is not enough because the United States competes with other countries, especially China, for investments in the region.

Executives at some of the companies that have pledged to spend millions of dollars over the next five years or so have said they will also need regulatory changes and price adjustments if they are to be successful in the long term.

They will also need infrastructure to support their investments – roads, internet and electricity – and a full scale of spending by other similar businesses. These are two things that China has embraced as it expands its investments across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In response, the administration said Monday that Ms. Harris would announce a program to increase infrastructure investment in the region.

The program aims to help companies access financing from the US International Development Finance Corporation and will create a North Central American Investment Facilitation Team to promote economic development.


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