Biden administration deploys top officials to Mexico, Guatemala amid border surge

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The Biden administration is sending top officials to Mexico and Guatemala in the coming days to meet with the Guatemalan president, among others, as it struggles to contain a surge of migrants at the United States’ southern border.

Amb. Roberta Jacobson, the administration’s coordinator for the southwest border, and Juan Gonzalez, senior director for the Western Hemisphere, are leaving for Mexico on Monday.

There are planned meetings with Marcelo Ebrard Casaubón, Mexico’s foreign secretary, and officials from the foreign ministry and migration policy officials, among others.

Mr. Gonzalez will then continue on to Guatemala, where he will be joined by Ricardo Zúñiga, who the State Department announced Monday as special envoy for the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

In Guatemala, there are planned meetings with President Alejandro Giammattei, Minister of Foreign Affairs Pedro Brolo, and the economic and security ministries in the Guatemalan government.

“Part of our objective … was that we need to work in partnership with these countries to address the root causes in their countries, to convey clearly and systematically that this is not the time to travel,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

Previewing the trip, a senior administration official described the border surge as stemming from a “cyclical regional issue” — even as migrants themselves cite the Biden administration’s immigration policies as a prime reason for trying to make the journey.

“Rebuilding our broken system will take time and it will take the whole-of-government effort President Biden has directed,” an official said. “No one, especially children and families with young children, should make the dangerous trip to try and enter the U.S. in an irregular fashion. The border is not open.”

Mr. Biden acknowledged on Sunday that more can be done to hammer home his “don’t come” message as he said he could head to the southern border himself sometime soon.

A key part of the trip will be trying to address “root causes” of migration like foreign corruption, violence, and extreme weather like hurricanes, officials said.

A long-term goal is to address those underlying issues to “break the cycle of desperation and provide hope for families who clearly would prefer to stay in their countries and provide a better future for their children,” an official said.

A problem for the Biden administration is that 30-40% of people in Central America say they want to migrate to the U.S., according to recent polling. Solving the underlying issues the officials cited doesn’t necessarily mean it will slow migrants’ attempts to leave their home countries.

Roughly 15% of the world’s adults — including 33% of people in Central America — said they would like to move to another country permanently if they could, according to Gallup polling released in 2018.

Roughly 16% of adults from Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama and Costa Rica — or nearly 5 million people — said they would like to move to the U.S.

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