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The U.S. has gone to its southern neighbors to help with issues at its own border. Photo: Paul Ratje/Getty Images

The U.S. turns to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala for its border problems

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the efforts are to make the journey more difficult for migrants.

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The Biden administration recently secured agreements with Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala to tighten their borders and curb the flood of migration, according to Tyler Moran, Special Assistant to the President for Immigration for the Domestic Policy Council.

Moran told reporters from MSNBC on Monday that the three Latin American countries have all agreed to place more troops on their own borders.

“That not only is going to prevent the traffickers, and the smugglers, and cartels that take advantage of the kids on their way here, but also to protect those children,” Moran said.

So far, Biden and his team have been grappling with the large number of migrants arriving at the U.S. southern border, particularly unaccompanied minors, who have been suffering in Border Patrol stations as officials race to find sites to accommodate them.

Moran also provided details on the integrated approach the administration is taking to properly address the situation at the border — one that acknowledges the root causes of migration and focuses on processing unaccompanied minors safely. 

“We’re addressing the reasons that people are coming from the region. This is really important. If you just focus on our border, you’re not addressing why people are actually coming to our border,” Moran said.

In a conference on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki explained that the intention is to make the journey more difficult.

“We worked with them [Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras] to increase law enforcement at the border to deter the travel, which is a treacherous journey… where many lose their lives,” Psaki said.

According to the agency’s data, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detained more than 172,000 people attempting to cross the U.S-Mexico border in March, marking an increase of 71% from February.

While the majority of people attempting to cross over were single adults, who are then expelled under the current public health order, CBP apprehended a record number of unaccompanied minors with 18,890 in March, almost double the number in February. 

Last month, Biden gave Vice President Kamala Harris the important task of managing efforts with Central American countries to stem the flow of migrants to the U.S. southern border. 

Harris has since met with Guatemala’s President, Alejandro Giammattei to discuss the increase of humanitarian aid in his country, as well as Honduras and El Salvador.

Harris and Giammattei also discussed the exploration of new job opportunities and creating better conditions for those in the region. Harris thanked Giammattei for his dedication to securing Guatemala's southern border.

Administration officials have repeatedly emphasized the relevance of understanding and addressing root causes of migration and improving conditions in the home countries of potential migrants.

In both Guatemala and Honduras, the U.S. is expanding their agricultural assistance while “providing skills training to returnees, making them more employable and economically resilient and less likely to re-migrate,” USAID said.

In El Salvador, the agency said that it wants to partner with businesses to create 10,000 jobs for “likely migrants, including vulnerable and displaced youth.” 

These efforts come as Biden is seeking to secure $861 million in the fiscal 2022 budget toward his ultimate goal of investing $4 billion in Central America. 

Last week, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it would be deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team to carry out humanitarian efforts in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. 

“We are deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART, which comprises disaster experts from USAID focused on rapidly scaling up emergency food assistance, programs to help people earn an income, protection for the most vulnerable, and other critical humanitarian programs," the statement read.

Biden’s administration has also placed around 28,000 radio ads as part of a campaign to discourage people from making the journey to the U.S.

The ads, which are recorded in Spanish, Portuguese, and six other Indigenous languages, have already reached at least 7 million radio listeners in Central America via 133 radio stations, according to a State Department spokesperson.

This spokesperson also explained that the scripts were derived from real-life testimonials. The U.S. is also utilizing social media campaigns to relay the administration’s message. 

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