Central America is key to ‘root cause’ of immigration surge, South Texas lawmakers tells VP Harris

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McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — During a “meaningful” hour-long discussion with Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez said he told the border czar that a substantial amount of carefully monitored funds are needed for Central America to curtail immigration north.

Gonzalez, a South Texas Democrat, explained during an online news briefing on Wednesday that the White House is requesting $4 billion from Congress to get at the real “root causes” that are forcing migrants to come north, most from Central America’s Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

“We were able to discuss the issues in those three Central American countries and making investments — well thought of, profound investments — that will have long term impacts in those countries to slow migration down to disincentivize people from making this very dangerous trek thru Mexico,” Gonzalez said. “To help them find ways to be able to help them deal with issues in their home country.”

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, speaks to media online from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (Screenshot)

Gonzalez was the only lawmaker from the U.S.-Mexico border region invited to take part in the discussion with Harris and other members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus.

He said he pushed hard to open up funds and opportunities for the private sector — in the United States and Central American countries — to step up and assist the process to create more jobs and stabilize the economy so people won’t want to leave their homelands.

“They know how to create jobs, increase tourism, ag programs that have real long term lasting impact,” he said.

He gave the example of a Hush Puppy shoe manufacturer in Guatemala who was able to add 1,000 jobs with one line of shoes, and added another thousand jobs when he got another line of shoes to produce.

“Imagine if he got five lines? That would immediately create 5,000 new employments in Guatemala,” Gonzalez said.

He said Harris reacted inquisitively and he expressed confidence that she asked the right questions and is working on serious and smart solutions.

Harris is scheduled to travel to Mexico and Guatemala on June 7-8.

Gonzalez, whose hometown is the South Texas border town of McAllen, said necessary monitoring and safeguards would need to be put in place to ensure that all and any funds doled out are used appropriately. He said past experiences have shown that not all money sent to the region gets to where it is supposed to.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ve had the results that were expected. We need to assure that when we make these investments that they’re monitored to assure that they have results and we don’t just throw money out there and hope it resolves itself. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been given to NGOs. I think we should have a closer monitor of these resources and ensure they get to the places that they need to.”

We need to assure that when we make these investments that they’re monitored to assure that they have results and we don’t just throw money out there and hope it resolves itself.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-TX

Funding for education, agricultural resources, which boost food supplies, and manufacturing, which creates jobs, should be top priorities, he said.

He also advocated assistance to afterschool programs like Boys & Girls Clubs that can aid families and create safe spaces “that keeps them out of gangs, out of violence. Keeps them from migrating and keeps families together,” he said.

There are concerns surrounding El Salvador right now, especially over its democratic process and the gangs and crime that are overtaking the social structure and contributing to the country’s weak economy.

Migrants have told Border Report those are many of the reasons they are heading north to Mexico and into South Texas to claim asylum, which is fueling a surge at the border that is taxing law enforcement resources.

On March 30, Harris spoke with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei and they discussed the United States’ commitment to increasing humanitarian assistance to Northern Triangle countries. They also “agreed to explore innovative opportunities to create jobs and to improve the conditions for all people in Guatemala and the region,” the White House said in a statement.

And she re-emphasized and thanked Guatemala for securing its southern border with El Salvador and Honduras.

Dozens of migrants are seen on April 6, 2021, after being apprehended in La Joya, Texas, by U.S. Border Patrol agents. Most are from Central American countries and trying to claim asylum in the United States. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

Gonzalez said he took Monday’s opportunity to also “address very forcefully” to the Biden administration the importance of reopening land ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border, especially to Mexican nationals who have not been able to cross and shop since March 2020 when the Trump administration imposed Title 42 health restrictions to thwart the spread of the coronavirus.

The restrictions were set to expire on Friday but earlier this week, Mexican officials announced that they have requested an extension through June.

“People in Washington like to call it ‘non-essential travel,’ which in the Rio Grande Valley is very essential to us,” Gonzalez said. “I’m hopeful we’ll soon be back to normal conditions on the border and that we will see a great decrease in undocumented in our sector.”

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