U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to speak Tuesday with community organizations in Guatemala, a day after the United States announced economic and other efforts to help Guatemala and its neighbors slow uncontrolled migration.
Harris’ office said Tuesday’s virtual roundtable session “will underscore the importance of placing the Guatemalan people at the center of solutions to root causes of migration.”
She said during talks Monday with Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei that she was “eager to hear their thoughts,” and that the people of the region “must be at the center of everything we do.”
An increased number of migrants have traveled from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to reach the United States, leading President Joe Biden to task Harris to work with the governments of the three countries, along with Mexico, to try to address the factors motivating people to leave their homes.
The World Food Program said in a report earlier this year that after several hurricanes hit the region, and the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the number of people facing hunger in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras has reached 7.8 million.
A $310 million U.S. program announced Monday will seek to address food insecurity in the region and deliver other needed humanitarian aid.
The effort includes aid to farmers, food and literacy programs for school children, disaster relief services, and addressing safety and protection of refugees, asylum seekers and those displaced within their country.
Harris told Giammattei that behind the U.S. effort is a responsibility to engage with its regional neighbors and a desire to “bring hope to the people of Guatemala that there will be an opportunity for them if they stay at home.”
Giammattei said his government shares that goal.
“Creating hope through the consolidation of walls of prosperity where people can find here opportunities to move ahead and, therefore, not need to go abroad to the United States is the road that should be our objective,” he said.
The two countries also agreed on a plan for the United States to send a group of employees from the Department of Homeland Security to train members of a Guatemalan border protection task force. The United States will also help with aid programs and shelter construction for migrants who are returned to Guatemala.