On Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris participated in a meeting with foundation leaders on the Northern Triangle to discuss relief efforts and addressing the root causes of migration from Central America.
"We have to give people a sense of hope, a sense of hope that help is on the way, a sense of hope that if they stay, things will get better," Harris said, listing last year’s hurricanes, food insecurity, poverty, violence and corruption all as factors that drive people to the U.S. border.
The meeting came just one day after the White House announced Harris will meet with Guatemala's president Alejandro Giammattei on Monday to discuss relief needs and address migration. Harris, who is leading the Biden administration's efforts to stem migration, is planning to travel to the Northern Triangle region in June, according to a senior administration official.
The news of Harris' trip was first reported by Axios. Officials did not yet offer further details of her trip.
The day after her meeting with President Giammattei, Harris will participate in a virtual roundtable with representatives from Guatemalan community based organizations, which will be hosted by U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City, the White House announced Wednesday.
The news comes amid a surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Border officials encountered more than 172,000 people at the border in the month of March, according to data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the highest number recorded in more than 20 years and a 70% increase from February. The Biden administration has continued to expel the majority of migrants who cross the border under a pandemic-related health order enacted by President Trump last year, including about 104,000 people expelled in March.
"I don't need to tell this group of experts that this is an issue that has been a long standing issue, it is complex," Harris told the group of foundation leaders on Thursday. "If it were easy, it would have been solved a long time ago."
"Most people don't want to leave home," she added. "They don't want to leave their grandparents, they don't want to leave the culture."
"I've asked the leaders of major philanthropic organizations — not only nationally but globally — I've asked you to come together so I can learn from you," Harris said Thursday. "So I can hear from you. Many of you have been investing for years, like I said, in the region. I want to hear from you to know what works, what has worked, what has not worked. So that will help inform our strategy going forward."
Harris said that the Biden administration will also speak to CEOs and executives from the private sector regarding assistance.
"The bottom line is that this initiative, from my perspective, must be effective and relevant to the underlying issue, which is addressing the acute and the root causes of migration away from that region," Harris said.
Spectrum News' Austin Landis contributed to this report.