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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a press conference in Guatemala City on June 7. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris has big goals for improving conditions in Central America to help slow migration from the region toward the United States.

Driving the news: Senior administration officials unveiled five sweeping goals during a call on Wednesday: Bettering economic prospects; rooting out corruption; promoting human rights, labor rights, and a free press; preventing gang violence; and combating sexual, gender-based and domestic violence.

The long-term strategies come as numbers at the U.S.-Mexico border continue to climb.

  • Border agents in South Texas encountered 20,000 migrants in one week, and tens of thousands of people have been released into the U.S. without a court date.
  • "The root causes piece that the vice president is working on, in some respects, is the long pole in the tent — it certainly is going to be the longest-term effort," one official said on the call.

The big picture: Problems in home countries also continue to arise. Just last week, the top anti-corruption prosecutor in Guatemala was fired. Guatemala is viewed as a key partner for the administration on the migration issue.

  • In response, the Biden administration has "decided to suspend assistance to the Office of the Prosecutor General," another official said.
  • Meanwhile, issues outside of Central America — such as unrest in Cuba and the assassination of the Haitian president — also could fuel more migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Between the lines: President Biden has tasked the vice president with leading the administration's efforts in Central America.

  • While Harris faced criticism after a trip to Guatemala and Mexico earlier this year, officials on the call touted her successes.
  • They include helping the U.S. disburse $250 million of more than $300 million for humanitarian relief in Central America; reaching out to nations including Japan, South Korea and Israel to increase their aid; and convincing private corporations to invest in the region.

What to watch: The administration is also working to expand legal pathways for migration to the U.S., and strengthening asylum protections in countries in the region.

  • "We're not seeking to end migration," one official said during the call. "We're seeking to change the ways in which people migrate, provide an alternative to the criminal smuggling and trafficking rings, and to give people access to opportunity and protection through legal channels, legal pathways."

Go deeper

Oct 29, 2021 - World

Mexico to give visas to pregnant women and children in migrant caravan

Members of a migrant caravan walk into the interior of Mexico after crossing the Guatemalan border on October 21, 2018. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Mexico announced Thursday it will give temporary humanitarian visas to children and pregnant women who are traveling with a migrant caravan currently moving north through the country.

Driving the news: A recent caravan of Central American and Caribbean migrants is traveling towards Mexico City and the U.S. and comprised largely of families with children, per Reuters.

Updated 25 mins ago - World

Biden cleans up comments about Russia invading Ukraine

Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden sought to clarify his suggestion that a "minor incursion" by Russia into Ukraine may not draw the same response as a large invasion, telling reporters Thursday that "Russia will pay a heavy price" if any troops cross the border.

Why it matters: Some officials in Kyiv saw Biden's comments as inviting Russian aggression.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
38 mins ago - Health

Study finds bias against Black patients written into medical charts

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Black patients were more than two-and-a-half times as likely as white patients to have negative descriptors about them in their electronic health record, according to a study published Wednesday in Health Affairs.

Why it matters: The study is further evidence of bias in the U.S. health care system, which can ultimately result in worse care and disparately poor outcomes.

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