Senior Biden officials held a press conference on Monday on the causes of illegal immigration from northern Central America to the United States, and what the administration, with Vice President Kamala Harris leading the effort, is doing to reduce this migration.
In addressing the crisis at the southern border, particular focus was put on stemming the flow of illegal immigrants from the “Northern Triangle”—or Northern Central America—nations: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Harris has come under heavy criticism for what has been widely perceived as her lack of engagement on the nation’s southern border, since President Biden appointed her as the border czar early in his administration.
With Biden saying he intends to seek reelection, what progress he can show on the border could be critical to his chances.
The vice president is “working to address the root causes of migration, the factors that drive people to migrate in the first place—including sometimes an absence of hope for economic opportunity.” an official stated. “[The] administration is simultaneously working to ensure safe, orderly, and humane processing system at the border.”
Officials said the number of encounters border officials had in January 2023 with those from Northern Central America trying to cross the border was 71 percent lower than in August 2021, the month in which the highest number of encounters were recorded during the Biden administration.
And, yet, overall, the southern border remains in crisis
Data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection documents a rapid rise in encounters between border agents and those seeking to cross the southern border into the United States, with that number being 458,000 in 2020, 1.7 million in 2021, and 2.3 million in 2022.
A Sept. 20, 2022, Newsweek story, “Border Crossings 3 Times Higher Under Biden Than Trump,” reported that “Data from the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) and Office of Field Operations (OFO) compiled by Newsweek show that the average number of encounters under Biden reached totals of roughly 189,000 per month, compared to an average of just under 51,000 per month during the Trump presidency.”
Keeping a Focus on Central America and the Northern Triangle
Harris visited Guatemala in June 2021, and while in the country sounded a message meant for those who might have been considering trying to enter the United States illegally.
“Do not come. Do not come,” she said. “The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border.”
A keystone of the vice president’s plan is the Call To Action program in which companies have been recruited to invest in Central America with the goal of creating economic and job opportunities at home for citizens of the region.
As the officials explained, when Call To Action launched in late May of 2021, 12 companies were on board. Today senior officials noted that the number of participating companies is at 50, and that $3.2 billion has already been invested in the program, with that number rising soon to $4.2 billion following Harris’s planned announcement of a $950 million commitment.
“We are redoubling humanitarian and development assistance in this region.,’ an official said. “We are cracking down on the multibillion human smuggling industry that exploits migrants and we are expanding legal pathways for migration from Central America.”
“We doubled the number of temporary worker visas that we issued to nationals of the three northern Central American countries. We also increased refugee resettlement from Central America six-fold.”