U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said Friday the U.S. and Mexico must collaborate to reduce immigration from Mexico by attacking violence and corruption in Central America.
The vice president made her appeal during virtual immigration talks with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Harris told Lopez Obrador it was in the best interests of both countries to address the root causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, all located in a Central American region known as the Northern Triangle.
“Together we must fight violence, we must fight corruption and impunity,” Harris said after the meeting. “It is in our country’s mutual interest to provide immediate relief to the Northern Triangle and to address the root causes of migration.”
Harris spokesperson Symone Sanders said in a statement after the meeting the two leaders agreed to “establish a strategic partnership” to address economic underdevelopment and other factors that cause migration from the Northern Triangle.
“Through this joint initiative, the United States and Mexico will leverage their expertise and resources to tackle a range of challenges, including lack of employment, limited market access, and deforestation and regional instability caused by climate change,” the statement said.
U.S. President Joe Biden has tasked Harris with leading the White House effort to curb immigration at the U.S. southern border, through which more than 20,000 unaccompanied children entered the U.S. since January.
President Lopez Obrador told reporters at his regular news conference shortly before Friday’s meeting he supports safer migration and that he had a specific proposal to discuss with Harris.
Lopez Obrador touted a tree-planting jobs program in Central America that he said could help participants get work visas in the U.S. He first mentioned the proposal at a Washington climate summit last month, to the surprise of some in attendance.
Following Friday’s meeting, Lopez Obrador said, “It is in our best interests based on our political, historical and friendship relations. Sometimes there have been differences among us. However, we have a common border that is over 3,000 kilometers long, and we need to understand one another.
“And we will help. That is what I can say,” Lopez Obrador added. “As of now, you can count on us.”
Harris said on Wednesday she would visit Mexico and Guatemala on June 7-8 to search for solutions to the immigration challenge, her first foreign trip as vice president.
Prior to the meeting, Lopez Obrador also told reporters that his government sent a diplomatic letter asking the U.S. to explain funding for an anti-corruption organization that has criticized his government.
Lopez Obrador accused Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity, a group that investigates political corruption, of trying to undermine his government. He described funding for the group from the U.S. Agency for International Development as “promoting a form of coup.”