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Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Central American officials during a two-day visit to Costa Rica beginning Tuesday to discuss the “root causes” of immigration — a visit that comes as the Biden administration is still grappling with the dramatic surge of illegal immigrants arriving in the US.
Since President Biden tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to oversee the immigration crisis in March, the vice president has held virtual calls with leaders of some Central American countries — and will travel to Mexico and Guatemala this month — but still hasn’t visited the border.
The White House has stressed that Harris’ focus is on the “root causes” of migration but not the border security breakdown caused by the record number of illegal immigrants and unaccompanied migrant children flooding to the US.
Speaking at the Washington Conference on the Americas last month, Harris pointed to “corruption” as one of the main reasons people are leaving their homes for America.
“Citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras are leaving their homes at alarming rates,” she said. “No matter how much effort we put in on curbing violence, providing disaster relief, on tackling food insecurity — on any of it — we will not make significant progress if corruption in the region persists.”
While in San Jose, Blinken will meet with President Carlos Alvarado Quesada and Minister of Foreign Affairs Rodolfo Solano Quiros about US-Costa Rica relations, and later take part in a meeting with senior leaders of countries — including Mexico — involved in the Central American Integration System, the State Department said.
Julie Chung, acting assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, said at a briefing last week on the trip that Blinken will bring up with officials from the Northern Triangle countries the effects corruption plays on immigration.
“Well, the administration has been clear from the beginning about the importance of addressing corruption and making sure anti-corruption, democracy, human rights — those are at the core of our foreign policy. … I think this is what the people in the region also look for their governments to do, so that when you address the migration — irregular migration — the corruption and governance and rule of law, those are all interconnected,” Chung said.
“So we are looking to really discuss and hear from the governments on what the challenges are and how we can address these challenges together,” she continued.
Last week, Harris announced the “Call to Action” initiative that will encourage businesses and organizations to invest in economic development in the Northern Triangle.
The Biden administration’s undoing of former President Donald Trump’s border policies has prompted a flood of Central American and Mexican illegal migrants at the US border, including thousands of unescorted children.
Central Americans looking for refuge from the Northern Triangle countries — Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — have taken these policy moves, as well as the overwhelmingly more welcoming tone from Democrats, as a sign that Biden is inviting them to cross the border.
Insisting that the border was not facing a crisis, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in early March that the problems the agency faced should be blamed on the previous administration.
The data, however, overwhelmingly shows that migrants were flooding the border because they believed Biden would welcome them with open arms.
As Mayorkas denied the existence of a crisis, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador blamed the new president for it, arguing that the “expectations” he set left migrants with the perception that they would be let into the US.
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