WH considers cash payments to Central Americans to stem migration

It’s pay to stay away.

The Biden administration is considering sending cash payments to Central Americans in a bid to prevent them from making the trek north as the US grapples with the worst immigration crisis seen in 20 years, Reuters reported Friday.

The potential cash transfer program would be targeted at residents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, which account for the overwhelming majority of migrants illegally crossing the border, Roberta Jacobson, the White House’s southern border coordinator, told the outlet.

“We’re looking at all of the productive options to address both the economic reasons people may be migrating, as well as the protection and security reasons,” Jacobson told the outlet in an interview.

In March, nearly 170,000 migrants were picked up by US Border Patrol agents at the southern border, a 70 percent increase from February and the highest monthly total seen since March 2001, data show.

Numbers have steadily increased since the start of the year and are attributed to a host of factors. They include the pandemic, natural disasters in those regions and a more welcoming attitude from President Biden, who rolled back a series of strict immigration policies set in place by his predecessor.

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An asylum-seeking migrants' family rests on the ground while waiting to be transported by the U.S. Border Patrols in La Joya, Texas on April 7, 2021.
An asylum-seeking migrants’ family rests on the ground while waiting to be transported by the U.S. Border Patrols in La Joya, Texas on April 7, 2021.
REUTERS/Go Nakamura/File Photo

Local law enforcement units and public officials along the border have criticized Biden for not doing enough to stem or prepare for the surge, which has left thousands of unaccompanied children languishing in federal custody at the reported cost of $60 million a week.

The White House hopes the cash payments will address economic issues Central Americans face so they won’t feel the need to migrate, the outlet said citing a senior White House official who is unnamed.

Jacobson, who announced Friday she is stepping down, couldn’t explain to Reuters how the program would work but did say she can “promise” “the U.S. government isn’t going to be handing out money or checks to people.”

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The administration is also mulling a plan to send COVID-19 vaccines to Central American countries, which have had extremely slow vaccine rollouts. In Honduras and Guatemala, less than one-percent of the population has been vaccinated and in El Salvador, only 2.5 percent have gotten the jab. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/world/covid-vaccinations-tracker.html

Jacobson said the administration hasn’t come to a decision on whether to prioritize sending vaccines to Northern Triangle countries but said Biden will consider how the inoculations could help those locales’ struggling economies.

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