The order called for more economic aid and strengthening the rule of law to create conditions so citizens of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador opt for staying home rather than attempting unauthorized crossings into the United States.
A year later, faith leaders are urging Biden to follow through with the initiative and giving him mixed grades on actions taken so far.
This week’s report from Root Causes Initiative, a partnership of grassroots and faith-based organizations from the Northern Triangle, Mexico and the United States, comes as migration to the U.S. remains at an all-time high and the administration takes heat from advocates for clinging to Trump-era border enforcement policies.
“We need the bold visionary leadership of the administration and the political will to make some changes in 2022,” said Marisa Limon Garza, deputy director of the Hope Border Institute, one of the partners.
She said Biden made “good efforts” to reverse policies that place migrants at risk of harm, such as “Remain in Mexico.” But that resolve stalled when faced with political pressure and court challenges from governors like Texas’ Greg Abbott.
There’s also internal dissent in federal law enforcement, as reported verbal confrontations between U.S. Border Patrol agents and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas took place during his visits to Yuma, Arizona, and Laredo, Texas, last week.
The grassroots groups acknowledged increases in U.S. aid to local organizations in Central America and the placing of 49 current and former foreign government officials in a corruption watchlist. But they call for more investment and note that human rights abuses continue, and governments are firing judges and prosecutors who take a stand against corruption.
“Rule of law deteriorated significantly in the region in 2021. Guatemala’s and El Salvador’s leaders moved to capture judicial systems, protect corruption and violate human rights,” the report alleges.
The groups are calling on Biden to apply sanctions on government officials and businesspeople behind human rights abuses and graft, and to meet with Indigenous leaders and environmental activists trying to keep mining and other industry from displacing rural and tribal residents.
They’re also calling for the administration to end “Remain in Mexico,” end the Title 42 public health order that allows for summary deportation of newly arrived migrants and reopen U.S. ports of entry to asylum seekers.
Other recommendations are to avail 50,000 non-agricultural work visas per year to Central Americans, create a Central American Family Reunification Program and allocate 20,000 slots to climate-change refugees from the region.
“Climate crisis is moving people out who couldn’t find work or food. Multinationals have extractive practices that are also moving people out and changing the climate,” Limon said. “A lot of challenges people face in Central America are the result of capitalist enterprise that are driving people out of their communities” and setting them on a path north.