Politics

Vice President Kamala Harris unveils strategy to address illegal immigration at the border

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Key Points
  • Vice President Kamala Harris released a sweeping strategy on Thursday to address the root causes of migration amid the recent surge in illegal U.S.-Mexico border crossings.
  • The strategy promises more sustained efforts to address motivations for migration, including refocusing engagement with Central America. 
  • The White House also released a "Collaborative Migration Management Strategy," which President Joe Biden ordered in February. It outlines how the U.S. will work with other countries to "manage safe, orderly and humane migration" in North and Central America. 
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building during the virtual National Bar Association meeting in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, July 27, 2021.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris released a sweeping strategy on Thursday to address the root causes of migration amid the recent surge in illegal U.S.-Mexico border crossings. 

The strategy states that the pandemic and "extreme weather conditions" have exacerbated the root causes of migration, which includes corruption, violence, trafficking and poverty. 

The announcement comes as the administration faces a southern border crisis, with migrant detentions hitting 20-year highs in recent months. 

More than 1.1 million apprehensions have been recorded during the first six months of this fiscal year, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. And a record high of nearly 190,000 apprehensions were recorded in June alone. 

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White House releases plan to deal with border surge

While the Biden administration has sent millions of vaccine doses and hurricane relief to Central America, Harris noted that providing such short-term relief is "not enough to alleviate suffering in the long term."

Instead, the vice president's strategy promises more sustained efforts to address motivations for migration, including refocusing engagement with Central America. 

"In Central America, the root causes of migration run deep — and migration from the region has a direct impact on the United States," Harris wrote in a cover letter discussing the plan. "For that reason, our nation must consistently engage with the region to address the hardships that cause people to leave Central America and come to our border."

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden tapped Harris to lead the administration's diplomatic efforts to address the causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, and she visited the U.S.-Mexico border in June as a part of those efforts. 

The strategy is the vice president's most recent step to address these root causes, and is a core component of the Biden administration's broader plan released Tuesday to establish a "fair, orderly and humane immigration system."

The plan is broken down into five pillars but it does not provide a detailed timeline or policy actions to be taken. The pillars include addressing economic insecurity and inequality, combating democratic corruption and promoting respect for human rights. 

The plan also addresses gang violence and crimes, and combating sexual and gender-based violence. 

Harris noted that the United Nations and the governments of Mexico, Japan and South Korea have committed to joining the effort to address the motivations of migration from Central America.

"The United States cannot do this work alone," Harris wrote in the cover letter. "Our Strategy is far-reaching—and focuses on our partnerships with other governments, international institutions, businesses, foundations, and civil society."

On Tuesday, the White House also released a "Collaborative Migration Management Strategy," which President Joe Biden ordered in February. It outlines how the U.S. will work with other countries to "manage safe, orderly and humane migration" in North and Central America. 

Efforts include expanding job opportunities and protections in countries where migrants leave, ensuring that border management is secure and humane and creating more legal pathways to come to the U.S. 

Dozens of migrants of Central American and Mexican origin sleep on the esplanade of the National Institute of Migration near the El Chaparral border crossing, waiting for U.S. authorities to let them enter to begin their humanitarian asylum process in this country.
Stringer | picture alliance | Getty Images

Republicans have slammed the Biden administration over its immigration policies, claiming that its roll-back of several policies issued under former President Donald Trump have encouraged illegal migration to the U.S. 

Democrats and immigration advocates have also mounted pressure on Biden, calling for him to ensure the humane treatment of migrant children and families at the border and lift a Trump-era public health order known as Title 42. 

The health order has allowed border officials to expel migrants without giving them the chance to claim asylum. 

On Monday, the Biden administration also announced that it would speed up deportations for some migrant families through "expedited removal," which allows immigration authorities to deport a migrant without a hearing before a immigration judge. 

The speedy deportation procedure will specifically apply to family units who are not deported to Mexico under Title 42 and fail to qualify for asylum, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security. 

That decision drew further criticism from advocates on the left.