Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday met with leaders of nonprofits that work in Central America to discuss the root causes of mass migration to the United States, digging into her new role to resolve the southern border crisis.
Harris told foundation leaders that she hopes to correct the conditions that drive people out of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, instead of just increasing security at the U.S. border with Mexico.
“Most people don’t want to leave home. They don’t want to leave their grandparents, they don’t want to leave the culture,” Harris told leaders from the Ford Foundation and Open Societies Foundation, among others.
The three countries, called the Northern Triangle of Central America, have been plagued by widespread poverty, repression and gang violence — all of which have dramatically worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People leave home … because they are fleeing sometimes, or because they are unable to satisfy their basic needs and the needs of taking care of their family. Because the resources and opportunities are not there,” the vice president said. “And so they have to go elsewhere.”
Last month, President Biden tapped Harris to lead the administration’s effort to stem the recent surge of mostly Central American migrants.
Harris is planning to meet virtually with Guatemala’s president on Monday and will visit the region next month. She emphasized that the problems won’t be solved overnight.
“This is a long standing issue, it is complex,” Harris said. “If it were easy, it would have been solved a long time ago.”