Pepsi, Cargill and several other companies will make new investments in Central America, Vice President Kamala Harris announced Monday, saying it was the latest success in her effort to try to create opportunities in those communities that might keep future would-be illegal immigrants at home.
She said some of the earlier commitments, announced in May, are already showing results, including Microsoft, which has “catalyzed” broadband access to 1.1. million people, and development of clean energy. Nespresso has also promised to spend $150 million between now and 2025, for the first time buying its coffee from Honduras and El Salvador.
The vice president’s efforts in Central America have been among the most controversial of her 11 months in office.
As the Biden border surge went into overdrive in the spring, she was tapped with coming up with ways to stop the large numbers coming from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, known as the Northern Triangle, which has surpassed Mexico as the leading source of illegal border jumpers in the U.S.
Ms. Harris has blamed everything from climate change to violence and corruption for the current spike in illegal immigration, though major new studies, including one sponsored by the U.S. Homeland Security Department, say the key driving factor is economics. One study said the average migrant from Northern Triangle countries sees a 10-fold increase in income by coming to the U.S.
That explains Ms. Harris’ focus on job opportunities, though closing enough of a 10-fold gap in incomes to keep people at home will be tricky.
And even as the vice president focuses on Central America, migration patterns are changing.
Over the last five months of fiscal year 2021, the Northern Triangle accounted for about 40% of illegal border jumpers. But those from beyond that region and Mexico accounted for 28%, far higher than in recent years.