Vice President’s Ceremonial Office

2:25 P.M. EDT

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS:  Well, I’m very pleased to welcome the Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Chairman Raul Ruiz, and the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to the Ceremonial Office of the Vice President of the United States. 

Many of us have worked together over the many, many years, and it is on that foundation and with — inspired by all the work that has yet to be done that we meet to talk about the issues that are challenging our country and challenging all the folks that we represent. 

I will —

(There is background conversation audible in the teleconference.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Somebody needs to mute themselves.  (Laughter.)

But let me say that I have seen for a long time — and many of us were together or knew each other from local government, from California government, and then even just in the United States Congress during my four years in the United States Senate. 

And the work of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is — is the work of — of national leadership.  And — and the collaboration and the work that we have done in the past together and that the work we can do going forward through the Biden-Harris administration and with the leadership of all of you, I think, is substantial.  It’s really important. 

So we’re here to talk about these issues.  We are here to talk about a variety of — of issues that are challenging the country currently.  The President just made a very exciting announcement about vaccinations and vaccines, in terms of not only what we have accomplished so far — and now 12 years and up have — have access to the vaccinations.  But we also have announced what we will do as part of our role in terms of international leadership, in particular around support for other nations. 

And the President announced we now will have about 80 million vaccines that will be available for distribution.  So that’s very exciting.  And many of us speak with leaders around the world and know that there’s a real demand for the work that we will continue to do to support our allies and those in need. 

And that’s in addition to what we have done in terms of COVAX.  And, of course, the Congress did that — and a dedication by Congress of $4 billion — $2 billion of which has been given to COVAX for the international distribution of support around the coronavirus. 

We’re going to talk about some of the work that we are doing together around small businesses.  Over the course of the last year and a half almost, during the virus, we have seen an extraordinary impact on our small businesses.  And when we look at, in particular, Latino-, Hispanic-owned small businesses, the impact has been great because the disparities that existed even before the pandemic continued, of course, and were highlighted and, in many ways, magnified during the course of the pandemic. 

So these are some of the issues that we will work together.  And then also through the provisions of not only the American Rescue Plan, but the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan — what that means in terms of support for the growth of jobs; for the — the growth of our economy; and the support of workers and their rights; and also what we need to do to support families, consistent with all of the demands that — that are placed on them.

We are going to talk about and work together — and again, I want to thank Chairman Ruiz for the work that we are going to do together as it relates to my — one of my areas of focus, which is the Northern Triangle and looking at how we can address the root causes of migration and work together in a way that is a continuation of the work we’ve already begun and the progress we’ve already seen around bringing federal agencies together to enhance their focus or renew their focus in that region, ranging from the Department of Agriculture, to Secretary of Commerce and hosting a Virtual Trade Mission, to the work that we are doing to bring American foundations in to renew their interest in the region and increase their capacity to support the region. 

We are bringing CEOs of private corporations in the U.S. together to think about their support. 

And then again, back to the point about agriculture, understanding that we are looking — all over the world and, in particular, in this region — extreme climate incidents, like the two hurricanes that devastated that region, and combining that with what we’re seeing — such as drought in Guatemala — what that means to the economic base of this region is particular because a large part of their economic strength has been in their agricultural industries, which have been directly impacted by the extreme weather. 

So this is some of the work that we can do together and — and to address what I call — not only the — the root causes, but the acute causes of the migration. 

And just — I will close my comments by saying this: The impacts of all of these issues — the poverty, the extreme food insecurity, corruption, violence, domestic violence, and the treatment of women and girls — so many of these issues are longstanding. 

Therefore, we know that the work we will do together is going to have to be a function of our commitment to a long-term approach — understanding that we’re not going to see results overnight, but that we are a neighbor in the Western Hemisphere and we must think of it as part of our responsibility to our neighbors to provide the support that we have the capacity to give in a way that addresses all these issues with a focus on short-, mid-range, and long-term impact. 

So that’s the conversation we’re going to have this afternoon.  And again, I’m very honored to receive these leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  And — and I look forward to our conversation.  So thank you all for being here.

2:31 P.M. EDT

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