A Chance to Reset U.S. Policy on Migration in the Region

June 4, 2021

Washington, DC— Ahead of Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit to Guatemala and Mexico next week, her first international trip as Vice President and a key early step in the administration’s effort to address the root causes of migration from Central America, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) urges the administration to embark on a strategy to help vulnerable children and families remain safely in their home countries with opportunities to thrive.

“The Biden Administration has a chance to meaningfully address the continuous cycle of child and family migration surges, including the most recent arrivals of unaccompanied children at the U.S.-Mexico border, by centering its root causes strategy on the needs of the children, families, and vulnerable populations who have comprised the majority of those migrating in recent years,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “Last year’s hurricanes, the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as ongoing violence, including gender-based violence, and other serious challenges, have left many with no option but to flee in search of safety. The United States must engage with a broad range of civil society actors in the region who work on these issues and provide development assistance for essential programming to address these root causes of child migration.”

Harris’ trip comes just days after the administration’s FY 2022 budget request, which includes an $861 million down payment on its promise to spend $4 billion over four years to address root causes of migration from Central America. This foreign assistance is desperately needed to fund programs that focus on economic opportunity, human rights, poverty reduction, and violence prevention, including addressing gender-based violence. According to KIND research, gender-based violence has increased dramatically during the pandemic and contributed to increasing numbers of children and women fleeing their countries.

The visit also follows the administration’s launch of its Partnership for Central America, a new working group to unite government, civil society, philanthropy, and private sector partners to identify and implement sustainable solutions that address the root causes of migration from the region.

KIND notes that Mexico will also play a key role in any regional strategy and should be seen as a valuable partner. But, Mexico must strengthen its ability to address the root causes of migration from the country, protect migrants in transit, and receive asylum seekers applying for protection in Mexico, and should receive foreign assistance to do so.

Addressing the root causes of migration is a necessary, long-term goal. But in the short-term, children and other vulnerable people will continue to flee dangerous situations. These migrants have the right to access the U.S. border to seek protection and the U.S. government must work to ensure all children are safe throughout their journey. At the same time, the number of children arriving at the border is an urgent reminder that the administration must follow through on its promise to expand eligibility for the Central American Minors (CAM) program, which offers a safe orderly alternative to bring children to the U.S. safely.

“This administration has a unique opportunity to rewrite the future history of migration and lead the United States in its groundbreaking effort to address the root causes that drive the migration of children and families from Central America. It will take time, commitment, resources, and strong partnerships, but we can get there if we keep children and families at the forefront. And as we seek this important progress, we must remember that unaccompanied children will continue to migrate, and their right to do so and their safety must be protected,” concluded Young.


Media Contact: Megan McKenna, mmckenna@supportkind.org, 202-631-9990