Harris announces $1 billion US investment in Central America

Vice President Harris on Monday announced a nearly billion-dollar investment in Central America as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to address root causes of migration in the region.

The investments will be made as part of a public-private partnership by a range of U.S.-based companies, from Columbia Sportswear Company to financial institutions like Microwd, which offers microloans to female entrepreneurs.

Harris will detail the funding commitments and next steps for the administration’s efforts during a Monday afternoon meeting with private sector leaders and government aides “to strategize on next steps and announce progress we’ve made in this effort,” according to a senior administration official.

The Partnership for Central America, a nonprofit organization, and the United States Agency for International Development will coordinate the investments and make a call to action for other companies that wish to invest in the region through the same mechanism.

The investments are meant to create job opportunities in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, three countries that over the past two decades played a large role in shifting migration patterns in the Western Hemisphere.

The current debate over regional migration is largely framed on the flows of Central Americans, who in 2014 and 2019 pulled the Obama and Trump administrations’ attention to the U.S.-Mexico border.

But Central America’s decades-long economic stagnation is seen as the primary culprit in creating a steady flow of migration to the United States.

With Monday’s announcement of $950 million in new commitments, private companies have committed more than $4 billion total since Harris first launched her call to action for private investment in May 2021.

On top of the new investments, Harris will outline the Central America Forward initiative, which will aim to create at least 1 million jobs in the region by 2032, provide education and training to 75,000 individuals by 2027 to prepare them for employment and facilitate at least $500 million in infrastructure deals by 2027.

The vice president since 2021 has led the White House’s efforts to address the root causes of migration from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, a task that has brought her scrutiny as critics tie her work to a surge in migrants at the southern border.

Harris drew criticism from humanitarians when in 2021 she told migrants not to come to the U.S., but she has also faced fire from conservatives, who argue her work has not yielded progress because the southern border is overwhelmed.

But senior administration officials argued there is hard evidence to show Harris’s work is producing results. They described Harris’s work on root causes as a long-term effort while the administration works on short-term improvements to the processing situation at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The officials noted that despite record-setting apprehensions near the southern border in 2022, the number of migrants coming from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala has decreased 71 percent since August 2021, and there has been a month-by-month decline in encounters from those countries in the past eight months.

“As the vice president is working to address root causes of migration … our administration is simultaneously working to ensure a safe, orderly and humane processing situation at the border,” a senior administration official said Monday on a call with reporters.

Tags Biden El Salvador Guatemala Honduras immigration Kamala Harris

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