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Harris announces deals for Central America investments

Harris announces deals for Central America investments
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Vice President Harris on Thursday announced commitments from 12 companies and organizations — including giants Microsoft and Mastercard — for investments in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, as part of her efforts to address the root causes of the surge of migrants at the U.S. southern border.

As part of the “Call to Action” launch, the administration unveiled agreements with 12 entities: Accion, Bancolombia, Chobani, Davivienda, Duolingo, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Mastercard, Microsoft, Nespresso, Pro Mujer, the Tent Partnership for Refugees and the World Economic Forum.

In March, roughly 170,000 migrants were apprehended at the U.S. southern border, marking a 15-year high. Additionally, 22,000 unaccompanied migrant children are currently in the U.S.

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President BidenJoe BidenChinese apps could face subpoenas, bans under Biden executive order: report OVERNIGHT ENERGY:  EPA announces new clean air advisors after firing Trump appointees |  Senate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior | Watchdog: Bureau of Land Management saw messaging failures, understaffing during pandemic Poll: Majority back blanket student loan forgiveness MORE called on Harris to lead the administration’s effort to stem the flow of migrants by working with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries to address the root causes of the surge in immigration.

The increase in migrants at the border has plagued the Biden administration early on, with Republican lawmakers repeatedly hitting the president over the issue.

Before meeting with the leaders of the 12 businesses and organizations, during which she announced the agreements, Harris said Biden asked her in March “to lead the democratic effort as it relates to the Northern Triangle,” adding “hope is on the way,” according to a pool report.

She said private businesses had "a very significant role to play in creating jobs and promoting economic opportunity and creating long-term development,” and that the “Call to Action” includes "everything from digital inclusion to workforce."

Microsoft, according to a fact sheet from The White House, has agreed to expand internet access to up to 3 million people in the territory by July 2022, as part of its Microsoft Airband Initiative. Additionally, the company will create community centers to provide women and young people with digital skills, internet, devices, educational experiences and mentorship.

Mastercard said it will work to bring into the financial system 5 million people in the region who do not have banking services. Additionally, the company will digitize 1 million micro and small businesses.

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Chobani agreed to expand its incubator program for local entrepreneurs to Guatemala.

Nespresso said it will start purchasing a portion of its coffee from El Salvador and Honduras. The company vowed to “support the local community” by spending a minimum of $15 million across coffee purchases, price premiums and technical assistance by 2025.

The new initiative will work to generate new commitments in six focus areas, with a specific focus on supporting vulnerable populations, including women and youth.

The focus areas include reform agenda, digital and financial inclusion, food security and climate-smart agriculture, climate adaptation and clean energy, education and workforce development and public health access.

The Wall Street Journal first reported on the agreements.

Alex Gangitano contributed to this report.

Updated 7:23 p.m.