For the United States, the best way to deal with illegal immigration from Central America is to promote the strengthening of governments in the region. US Vice President Joe Biden made it clear that he would apply the full weight of the law to those who enter the country illegally.
In recent months, there has been talk of a plan for the Obama administration to begin deportations of Central American immigrants living illegally in the United States. Biden, during a visit to Guatemala for the inauguration of Jimmy Morales, the country’s new president, spoke exclusively to Metro about corruption, immigration and relations between the two nations.
Do you think the Plan for the Alliance for Prosperity of the Northern Triangle is enough to promote development in Central America, and prevent illegal immigration? Could you give us an estimate of how much money and how much time is required to generate this development?
If our partner governments honor their commitments under the Alliance for Prosperity, I do think that would be the most effective way to discourage migration to the United States. I cannot imagine how desperate the parents must be to take the decision to surrender their precious children to a criminal and have them subject to an incredibly dangerous journey to the United States.
We are also taking steps to expand refugee resettlement for vulnerable individuals and families in the Northern Triangle. Working with the United Nations, we are improving our ability to identify people who may be victimized by gangs or because they are human rights defenders, and others who need refugee protection. Our goal is to address the causes of migration and to provide a safe and legal alternative for those who qualify for refugee status in the United States. But let me be clear: we will apply our laws. If individuals who enter the United States are not qualified for asylum or refugee status, and have no legal avenue for residency or citizenship, they will be returned home.
How will the United States continue to support the fight against corruption in Latin America? Should similar models to CICIG [International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala] be created in other nations?
Corruption destroys societies from the inside out. We see it in every region of the world, from Central America to Eastern Europe. Corruption drains resources and weakens national security. Without addressing corruption we will not see progress in any of the serious challenges that Latin America faces. The streets will not be safe if the police are bought by the cartels. Economies do not grow if the rich do not pay their taxes; governments will not improve if the votes of politicians are for sale.
Many analysts are saying that the United States has not addressed its relations with Latin America. How do you see future diplomatic ties?
That is simply not true. There are many challenges in the world, from the Islamic State in the Middle East to Ukraine and Russia, but, as President (Barack) Obama addressed in the State of the Union, our relationship with Latin America is at the top of the list of priorities for our foreign policy. We are contributing to their success, not only because the instability in the region affects our interests, but also because we recognize the enormous opportunities for mutual prosperity in the hemisphere.
From the beginning of our government, President Obama asked me to conduct the policy of the United States for our hemisphere. I have long believed that we have the possibility of achieving a hemisphere that is democratic, middle-class, free, and safe, from Canada in the north to the southern tip of Argentina – that is the future we want to achieve and that's a first level priority. And Central America is a cornerstone in achieving that. That is why we have allocated US $750 million in our new budget to help the countries of the Northern Triangle to address critical challenges. This commitment represents the largest aid package from the United States to Central America since the Eighties, but the nations of the region must also do their part and demonstrate concrete progress in key areas. For us, the question is no longer: "What can the United States do for you?" The question is: "What can we do together, as neighbors and partners to benefit our entire hemisphere" We hope that the nations of the region take a share of the burden sharing, as we take ours. And that legacy of mutual respect and involvement will endure beyond the Obama and Biden administration.