Vice President Kamala Harris is emphasizing what she describes as the root causes of the migrant surge at the border, calling the issue "complex" as she continues to face criticism for her handling of the crisis.
Harris, in a roundtable on the Northern Triangle, said the underlying issue was "addressing the acute and root causes of migration away from that region, the reasons people flee."
The Northern Triangle refers to the Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
President Biden made Harris the point person for the crisis last month, but she has emphasized that her focus is on diplomatic issues related to the region rather than the crisis on the border itself.
Harris told participants that "most people don’t want to leave home" and cited a list of factors she said is making people flee those countries.
"We are looking at extensive storm damage because of extreme climate, we're looking at drought in an area in a region where agriculture is one of the most traditionally important basis for their economy, we're looking at what's happening in terms of food scarcity as a result of that and in fact, incredible food insecurity, which we used to call hunger food insecurity," she said.
"And we are looking at, therefore, a number of issues that also relate to poverty, extreme poverty. And also there's violence obviously coming out of those regions," she said. "When you look at the root causes, we're also looking at issues of corruption. Again, we're looking at the issue of climate resiliency and then the concern about a lack of economic opportunity."
The U.S. is seeing a dramatic surge in migration at the border, with 172,000 migrants encountered in March alone — and thousands more estimated to have evaded Border Patrol. The spike in unaccompanied children and migrant families in particular has overwhelmed facilities and led the Biden administration to rapidly opening facilities to house them.
The Biden administration has placed significant emphasis on the root causes of the crisis, while also saying migrant surges are seasonal and dismissing claims from critics that a liberalization of migration and border policy by the administration is responsible.
Republicans have pointed to the Biden administration’s rollback of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), narrowing of interior enforcement and the decision not to apply Title 42 public health protections to unaccompanied children as reasons for the surge.
They have also attacked Harris for not visiting the border.
Harris is due to meet virtually with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday, ahead of a visit to the country in the coming months.