Facing a surge of migrants flocking to the border, the Biden administration is fine-tuning requirements to its proposed $4 billion aid package to Central American countries to address what it calls the “root cause of migration.”
President Joe Biden’s national security adviser and coordinator for the southern border, Roberta Jacobson, said the aid would be subject to strict requirements based on anti-corruption efforts and good governance measures.
"I want to emphasize that the funds we're asking for from Congress don't go to government leaders,” Jacobson said during a briefing to reporters at the White House on Wednesday. “They go to communities, to training, to climate mitigation, to violence prevention, to anti-gang programs. In other words, they go to the people who otherwise migrate in search of hope.”
Responding to VOA’s question, Jacobson would not specify the details of those requirements.
“I think that's something that we would want to discuss with the countries involved before we discuss it publicly,” she said.
Jacobson said some of the money is slated for immediate humanitarian aid, but much of it is designed to mitigate the so-called push factors of migration — conditions that make people leave their home countries for a better life.
However, she acknowledged that ultimately, the U.S. may not be able to change conditions on the ground.
“We can encourage them. We can help support them with resources, technical assistance and funding. But we can't make those changes,” Jacobson said.
The Biden administration has been facing increasing pressure from Republican lawmakers and anti-immigration activists to stem the thousands of migrants rushing to the U.S.-Mexico border to escape violence and poverty.
“The Biden administration’s claims on U.S. foreign assistance to Central America are purposefully disingenuous,” said Ana Quintana, the Heritage Foundation’s senior policy analyst on Latin American affairs.
Quintana added that as the former chief diplomat to the region, Jacobson is well aware that only a small percentage of funds reaches the governments of those countries in the form of training and equipment.
Central American Minors program
The Biden administration is also reinstating an Obama-era program that would allow qualified Central American children to seek asylum in the U.S. from their home countries.
Established in 2014, the Central American Minors (CAM) program would allow certain minors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to reunite with parents who are already in the U.S. legally.
“I want to be clear: Neither this announcement or any of the other measures suggest that anyone, especially children and families with young children, should make the dangerous trip to try and enter the U.S. in an irregular fashion,” Jacobson said. “The border is not open.”
The State Department said it would first process applications that were closed in 2017 after the Trump administration terminated the program. The administration will begin accepting new applications once those are processed.
Immigration activists welcomed the announcement as a means toward expanding pathways for legal migration in the region.
“We hope that it can be the first step in finding ways for children with family in the United States to come here safely, rather than have to make the dangerous journey to the border,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council.
Unaccompanied minors and other asylum-seekers from Central America are overwhelming the U.S. immigration system at the border. Multiple media reports show that children are detained in border facilities meant for adults for longer periods than U.S. regulations allow.
Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott has accused the Biden administration of downplaying a growing "border crisis." White House press secretary Jen Psaki and other administration officials have rejected the characterization.
Psaki said Biden had been briefed on the situation by officials who visited facilities where minors are held. She said the president discussed ways to speed up getting minors out of U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities, into shelters with better accommodations and eventually into family homes that have been vetted.
She declined to say whether Biden himself would visit the border.Original Article