Posts tagged with "Homeland security"

Southern comfort: Biden Administration taps private sector to invest in Central America

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

Ex-Pence aide blasts Trump over COVID response, says she’ll vote for Biden

September 21, 2020

In a two-minute video spot released by the group Republican Voters Against Trump on September 17 and posted on YouTube— a former senior adviser and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force lambasted President Donald Trump as a stonewalling, capricious leader with more concern for his reelection than the pandemic—and said she would be voting for his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, in November.

Olivia Troye, a lifelong Republican who worked as an adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security to Vice President Mike Pence before leaving the administration in August, appeared in an ad in which she shared damning anecdotes that portrayed Trump as a debilitating actor in the administration’s efforts to contain the virus, Politico reports. She said Trump was dismissive toward the task force’s efforts to prepare for the outbreak from early in the year, before the virus had made heavy inroads into the United States.

“It was shocking to see the president saying that the virus was a hoax, saying that everything’s OK when we know that it’s not,” Troye said. “He doesn’t actually care about anyone else but himself.”

Troye also asserted that Trump said during a meeting: “Maybe this COVID thing’s a good thing. I don’t like shaking hands with people. I don’t have to shake hands with these disgusting people.”

That remark, Troye said, encapsulated the president’s flippant attitude toward a pandemic that has since claimed nearly 200,000 American lives.

The Washington Post first reported Troye’s frustrations with her previous role.

The White House promptly rebuffed the allegations, using its frequent defense against personnel-turned-critics by saying that Troye was a disgruntled and vindictive ex-staffer. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted Thursday night a letter by Troye after her departure from the White House. It praised the task force’s work combating the disease.

“I have witnessed firsthand how dedicated and committed all of you have been to doing the right thing,” the letter said.

But Troye’s criticisms were directed at the president specifically, not the administration. In the ad, she said working with the task force was the “opportunity and honor of a lifetime.”

“I put my heart and soul into this role every single day,” she said in the ad. “But at some points I would come home at night, I would look myself in the mirror and say, are you really making a difference? Because no matter how hard you work or what you do, the president is going to do something detrimental to keeping Americans safe.”

Her letter likewise praised her colleagues and her work with Pence, but did not mention Trump.

Speaking with reporters on Thursday evening before departing for a campaign rally in Wisconsin, Trump said that “I have no idea who she is.” He then said Troye was dismissed from her post and “then she wrote a beautiful letter.”

According to Politico, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows later told reporters aboard Air Force One: “It’s the swamp fighting back. It’s, generally speaking, disgruntled employees.”

Asked by a reporter what Troye was disgruntled about and whether she was fired, Meadows responded, “I can’t speak to personnel matters.”

As of Friday afternoon, September 18, the YouTube video already had garnered almost 640,000 views.

Research contact: @politico