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As a coalition of faith leaders and grassroots organizations working to address  the root causes of migration from Central America, we know that fundamental change in how the United States relates to the region is imperative. While the The Root Causes Strategy released today by the Biden-Harris administration represents a positive step in the right direction, there is still more work to be done. 

The strategy correctly emphasizes that the challenges of migration cannot be met without addressing the conditions driving the displacement of desperate families. It addresses the need to center human rights, including labor rights, and the critical need to support and protect civil society organizations in their work against corruption and impunity. The strategy also recognizes the need to address gender-based violence in the region as well as essential criminal justice reforms and reintegration programs. It underscores, too, the need to address the needs of those displaced by the climate crisis and the necessity to to help small farmers adapt to climate change and expand access to clean water. 

However, the Biden-Harris strategy does not adequately recognize the role that an exploitative economic model, based on low wages and resource extraction, plays in causing poverty, inequality and migration – nor the degree to which economic oligarchs have become entrenched, enabled by corrupt politicians and criminal organizations.

The Vice President must also do more to engage religious leaders and the faith community in the region, given the critical role played by faith-based organizations in promoting democracy and human rights and meeting the needs of people on the move. 

These critical omissions raise questions about the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to addressing the real structural problems driving migration in the region. 

An early test of the administration’s willingness to stand with the people of Central America will be how the United States responds to the unjustifiable sacking of Juan Francisco Sandoval as head of the Guatemalan anti corruption unit.

The Root Causes Initiative is a collaboration among religious organizations and faith leaders across El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the United States working to address the root causes of migration from Central America and to protect people on the move. We will continue to review the Biden-Harris administration’s strategy in the days ahead and look forward to engaging with the administration to pursue the fundamental change necessary to address the drivers of migration in our region.

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