Mexican president says Biden has already pledged $4 billion in aid for Central America

President Joe Biden has pledged to spend $4 billion on developmental programs in three Central American countries that send the most migrants north to the United States, according to Mexico’s leader.

Upon taking office, Biden’s first phone calls were to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a time when relations with both countries are strained, The Associated Press reported Sunday.

Immigration was a primary topic between the U.S. and Mexican leader and comes as Biden has already reversed some Trump Administration policies and plans to address others.

In addition, the White House has reportedly sent the Democrat-controlled Congress an immigration bill that will include a multi-year pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 to 20 million people currently living illegally in the United States.

According to a fact sheet, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 also provides $4 billion over four years “to address the underlying causes of migration in the region, including by increasing assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The bill conditions the aid on those countries’ “ability to reduce the endemic corruption, violence, and poverty that causes people to flee their home” nations.

It’s not clear how the Biden administration will verify those countries are meeting corruption, violence, and poverty metrics.

The Trump Administration similarly used financial incentives in order to reduce illegal immigration from those countries, albeit in reduced amounts. In March 2019, the former Administration cut aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras after accusing them and Mexico of taking hundreds of millions in aid funds but doing little with the money to stop, at the time, thousands of migrants that formed lengthy caravans that essentially stormed the southwest border.

By October, the aid was restored after all three countries agreed to take in those who sought asylum while their cases were adjudicated in the United States, rather than allow them to come to the U.S. where they would have been released into the country, most failing to show up for hearings when they are finally scheduled.

The aid was meant to fund programs that “complement our joint security plans for each government; augment private-sector efforts to create economic opportunity; promote rule of law, institution building, and good governance; and help these countries develop their capacities to implement the recently signed agreements to build stronger local asylum systems,” then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

But even with financial assistance, the governments of the so-called “Northern Triangle” countries have a lot of incentive to allow their citizens to migrant illegally to the U.S.

Over the past decade, migrants from the three countries have sent some $120 billion in remittances back to their home countries, citing an immigration expert who used United Nations and Latin American banking figures, DCNF has reported.

In 2018 alone, migrants sent $17 billion back to their home countries, making remittances one of their primary sources of income. Also, when migrant stream north for work, those governments do not have to focus as much on domestic job creation.

In his call with Trudeau, Biden discussed his decision to end the Keystone XL pipeline, explaining that it was a campaign promise despite the fact that it will cost tens of thousands of good-paying jobs on both sides of the northern border.

“It’s not always going to be perfect alignment with the United States,” Trudeau said, according to the AP. “That’s the case with any given president, but we’re in a situation where we are much more aligned on values and focus. I am very much looking forward to working with President Biden.”

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Jon Dougherty

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