Vice President Harris has been tasked in the role as the Biden administration is facing a humanitarian challenge in caring for unaccompanied children arriving to the U.S. in search of safety and protection. Children over several years have been forced from their homes and communities by gang violence and poverty—indeed, a UNICEF report warned policymakers in 2016 that ”there is no sign this trend is letting up.”
While there are no extensive details as of yet, Harris will reportedly lead efforts to address root causes that force kids and families to flee their homes. NPR reports the Biden administration “has asked Congress for $4 billion in aid over four years for Northern Triangle countries—aid that primarily will go to communities and international organizations rather than governments because of concerns about corruption.”
The previous administration’s response to families following the law by asking for asylum at the southern border was to instead slash aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador in mid 2019. “Lawmakers who opposed the plan said it was cruel to cut off aid to countries grappling with hunger and crime and that the move would be counterproductive because it would more likely increase the number of migrants than decrease it,” Reuters reported at the time.
“As feared, a presidential tantrum will limit our nation’s ability to actually help address the challenges forcing people to flee to the U.S.,” New Jersey U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez said in that report. The previous administration resumed “some ‘targeted assistance’” later that year, Reuter reported, but only after the nations agreed to sign off on anti-asylum policies.
“We can talk all day about the symptoms of the situation, but you really have to get at what is causing this phenomenon, and that will be her focus,” a Biden administration official told Politico. “We are proceeding both with a sense of decency about treating migrants like human beings and doing the very best we can to care for people and treating our neighbors with respect and dignity.”
A Marshall plan for Central America was proposed during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary by former Housing and Urban Development Sec. Julián Castro, who called “for the US to emulate Harry Truman’s 1948 aid program that helped western Europe recover from the ravages of the second world war,” The Guardian reported in 2019. “In a modern echo, the US would inject resources and knowhow into the struggling societies of Central America as a humane alternative to Donald Trump’s proposed wall.”
“Extending a hand of friendship, of opportunity to countries in our hemisphere—this approach is much more in keeping with our values,” Castro said in the report. “This is a mutually beneficial way to engage Central Americans, not a slap in the face like the wall.”