May 28, 2021
On May 27, Vice President Kamala Harris was scheduled to unveil the agreements of 12 companies and organizations–among them, MasterCard and Microsoft—to invest in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador as part of the Administration’s efforts to deal with a surge of migrants from Central America at the U.S. southern border, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The Administration believes that aid to Central America will bolster economies south of the border—and that better conditions in that area will discourage surges in immigration to the USA.
Among the companies involved:
- Microsoft has agreed to expand Internet access to as many as three million people in the region by July 2022, as well as to establish community centers to provide digital skills to women and youths;
- Mastercard will seek to bring five million people in the region who currently lack banking services into the financial system, and to give one million micro and small businesses access to electronic banking.
- Chobani has agreed to bring its incubator program for local entrepreneurs to Guatemala; and
- Nespresso, a unit of Nestlé SA, plans to begin buying some of its coffee from El Salvador and Honduras with a minimum regional investment of $150 million by 2025.
Democratic and Republican administrations have struggled to find long-term solutions to handling surges in migrants from Central America, many of whom say they are driven by poverty and violence in their home countries. The region was hit hard last year by two disastrous hurricanes.
According to the Journal, Biden Administration officials have said the aim in part is for greater private-sector involvement to outlast shifts in policy and government aid between administrations— reducing over time the motivations for migrants to make the often dangerous journey to the U.S. border.
The total number of illegal border crossings this year is on pace to hit a two-decade high; and a record number of unaccompanied minors crossed the border illegally in March, followed by a slight decline in April.
President Joe. Biden has delegated to Vice President Harris diplomatic efforts with Mexico and the three countries known as the Northern Triangle: El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. She is scheduled to make her first foreign trip to Mexico and Guatemala next month.
Republicans have criticized Harris over the Administration’s overall handling of immigration and have chided her for not yet visiting the border. White House officials have said her role is limited to diplomatic efforts, with departments such as Homeland Security and Health and Human Services in charge of dealing with migrants crossing into the United States.
While leading a recent GOP delegation to visit the border, Representative James Comer (R-Kentucky) said more government investments in the region wouldn’t deter migrants from making the journey to the U.S. “We’ve been giving foreign aid to a lot of those countries for decades, and it’s only gotten worse,” he said.
However, Harris has said that private-sector investment along with help from nonprofits and the United Nations could speed up progress in the Northern Triangle. “We must think beyond government,” she said in a speech earlier this month to the Council of the Americas, a business group that focuses on economic and social development in the Western Hemisphere.
She was expected to call on other companies and organizations on Thursday to invest in public health access, food security, financial inclusion, clean energy, education, and workforce development in the region, working through the State Department.
Research contact: @WSJ