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Experts Respond to Harris Trip to Guatemala and Mexico

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A recording of the event can be found here

Washington, DC – At a virtual press event on Wednesday, regional, foreign policy and immigration policy experts discussed Vice President Harris’ trip to Guatemala and Mexico. The visits provided the Biden administration an opportunity to introduce their vision for addressing root causes in the region and turn migration into a matter of choice rather than a matter of life and death. The Vice President’s role and increased attention to the pervasive hunger, violence and systemic corruption in the region offer a critical opportunity for the United States to respond to forced migration with a regional migration management strategy aimed at safe, humane and orderly movement of people, and with a regional root cause strategy that, over time, reduces factors that compel people to leave their countries in the first place.

Dan Restrepo, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress and special assistant to the president for Western Hemisphere Affairs for President Obama and author of this recent op-ed in The Hill, said “Successfully managing migration from northern Central America hinges on the ability of the U.S. government to catalyze constructive disruption of a failed status quo in the region and in the U.S. migration system itself. Vice President Harris’ trip to Guatemala and Mexico was an essential element in a multifaceted effort to drive that disruption forward and empower change agents across the region.” 

Celina de Sola, Co-Founder and President, Glasswing International and author of this recent op-ed in Global Americans, said “We are at a critical point in our history of international collaboration, and we have a unique opportunity to transform the region. As we move forward, it is important to listen to, and build on, the experience of local organizations that are part of, and work with, communities throughout El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – building trust, enhancing resilience, and investing in people so they can thrive.”

Jorge Morales Toj, a Maya K’iche leader and human rights lawyer and a co-author of this recent op-ed in the New York Times, said “The structural causes of migration lie in poverty and in the exclusion of indigenous communities—communities that have been historically marginalized and excluded. We must stop seeing indigenous people as guinea pigs but rather participants of these processes. The Mayan people in Guatemala need access to opportunities, including access to land, credit, technology, and above all, access to the markets. That will become possible if we can get the American government to put pressure on the Guatemalan government so that we can close the loop on corruption. The visit of Vice President Harris means a fundamental opportunity to set a new perspective on the structural causes of poverty.”

Frank Sharry, Executive Director, America’s Voice, said “The issue of migration from Central America has been misunderstood for decades. The flawed assumptions are: 1) migration is bad; 2) migration starts at the U.S.-Mexico border; 3) migration to the U.S. from Central America is mostly caused by U.S. immigration policies; 4) cruel deterrence is the only way to deal with it. None of these assumptions are true. Forced migration from Central America is caused by violence, corruption and poverty. Cruel deterrence at the southern border and in the interior doesn’t stop migration, just drives it further underground. And, as someone who has worked with Central Americans for many years in America, it is obvious that refugees and immigrants from Northern Triangle countries have made enormous contributions – here in the U.S. through their hard work, strong families and vibrant associations, and there in their countries of origin through their remittances that support families and communities. We should be grateful for all Central Americans have done for our country and for their countries of birth.”

Anya McMurray, Senior Director for Immigration, Emerson Collective, said “Migration is the result of millions of people making the decision to stay or to go. Each decision is deeply personal, but for too many Central Americans it isn’t a choice at all. Changing the calculous so that staying is a real option for more people will require the US to take a new approach: be more creative, think bigger, find ways to disrupt the status quo that currently leaves millions of people without hope of a brighter future.”