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What We're Watching: VP Harris on Central America trip, FBI dupes crooks, India reverses course on vaccines

VP Harris tours Central America: US Vice President Kamala Harris this week embarked on her first official foreign trip since assuming that role, making stops in both Mexico and Guatemala. After immigration became a major political headache for the Biden administration, with Central American migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border in historic numbers in recent months, Biden tapped Harris to oversee issues related to the root causes of mass migration from Central America (which he distinguishes from the so-called "border crisis''). Harris, for her part, has been pushing the US private sector to invest more in the Northern Triangle countries — Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador — that are plagued by corruption and crime, and account for the bulk of migrants arriving at the US' southern border. Harris has also engaged in vaccine diplomacy to shore up support, announcing that the US will ship COVID vaccines to both Guatemala and Mexico. Immigration is a massive electoral problem for President Biden, with polls suggesting that 48 percent of Americans disapprove of his handling of the issue. Harris is trying to fix that. But analysts say that this trip is also an opportunity for the VP to bolster her own foreign policy bonafides as she looks at a future presidential run.

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Biden plays the (Central American) Triangle

In recent months, large numbers of men, women, and children from the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America – Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador – have left their countries in hopes of applying for asylum in the United States. This wave of desperate people has created a crisis at the US border and a political headache for President Joe Biden. US border officials now face the highest number of migrants they've seen in 20 years.

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The Graphic Truth: How many refugees does the US let in?

Immigration has been a major challenge for the nascent Biden administration, testing the new US president's ability to placate moderates on both sides of the aisle, as well as the progressive wing of his own party. Biden initially pledged to keep the US' annual refugee cap at 15,000 — a "ceiling" set by the Trump administration, the lowest in US history. But after that move sparked swift backlash, Biden this week reversed course: 62,500 refugees will now be allowed to enter the US over the next six months. How does this compare to policies set by previous US administrations? We take a look at refugee admittance numbers since 1980.

Grading President Biden's first 100 days; 2020 US Census helps Sun Belt states

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

How would you grade President Biden's performance in his first 100 days?

Well, Biden's done pretty well in this first 100 days. He's done a good job on what's the number one most important issue facing his administration and that's the coronavirus response. He hit his goal of 100 million vaccinations within the first month or so of his administration. And they increased that to 200 million vaccinations, which they hit on day 92. So that's a pretty successful start. They inherited a lot of that from President Trump to be fair. Operation Warp Speed set the US up for success and Biden delivered after he came into office. And of course, the second thing is his COVID relief package, which the US has taken advantage of a favorable funding environment to borrow trillions of dollars and get them into the hands of American small businesses and families and has really helped the economy through what has been a very bad year but could have been a lot worse if the government hadn't intervened. The bill has been very popular, and it set the stage for a follow on bill that Biden wants to deliver for big priorities for democrats later this year, potentially as much as $4 trillion in spending.

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What We're Watching: EU tightens vaccine exports, Kenya to close Somali refugee camps, Mexico-US border "cooperation"

Europe's vaccine war escalates: As the European Union contends with a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and deaths, and a disastrous vaccine rollout, the European Commission announced Wednesday a proposal to tighten vaccine exports from the bloc, a move referred to by one diplomat as a "retrograde step." The new measures would ban vaccine doses produced in the EU from being sent abroad to countries that don't "reciprocate" as well as those that have a higher per capita vaccination rate than EU member states (the UK falls under both categories). European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen is upping the ante from January, when the EU banned exports by companies that don't first honor their contracts with EU member states. (In practice, only one batch of vaccines from Italy was blocked from being sent to Australia.) This is a massive development within the context of an ongoing row with the UK, which so far has received almost 10 million doses of EU-made jabs, far more than any other country. London also has rolled out a much more successful vaccine drive, having administered vaccines to 45 out of every 100 people, compared to just 13 in the EU. Although EU leaders will discuss the vaccine disaster at a summit later this week, the new proposal will come into force unless most EU members oppose it — an unlikely outcome given that many EU countries are struggling to keep their COVID crises at bay.

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Crisis at the border a no-win scenario for Biden

As thousands of migrants, many of them children, attempt to cross the US southern border, stretching the immigration system's ability to process and integrate them, President Joe Biden now finds himself facing a challenge that has bedeviled presidents and Congress for decades: how to reform an immigration system that everyone agrees is broken, but which no one can agree on how to fix.

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What We're Watching: Biden's immigration dilemma, "illiberals" sue EU, China tramples on HK democracy, Lego sales soar

Immigrants flock to the US-Mexico border: President Biden has already undone many of the Trump administration's harsh immigration programs, saying that he is ushering in more "humane" policies. Since then, an influx of migrants mainly from Central America has flocked to the US-Mexico border in the hopes of seeking asylum in the United States. The number of children and families reaching the border increased by more than 100 percent between January and February 2021, according to US Customs and Border Protection. Importantly, the number of children arriving on their own has also surged 60 percent in that time, presenting a particular challenge for the US president, who campaigned heavily against Trump's policy of detaining unaccompanied minors. The Biden administration says that the recent surge is linked to a renewed sense of "hope" after Trump's hardline immigration stance, but this development puts Biden in a massive bind: he wants to stay true to his image as a humane and compassionate leader, while also not opening the floodgates on immigration — still a hot button issue in the United States. Indeed, this problem is only going to get worse in the months ahead.

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El Salvador's president wins big. What does this mean for the country and its neighbors?

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele is an unusual politician. The 39-year old political outsider boasts of his political triumphs on TikTok, dons a suave casual uniform (backwards-facing cap; leather jacket; tieless ), and refuses to abide by Supreme Court rulings.

Bukele also enjoys one of the world's highest approval ratings, and that's what helped his New Ideas party clinch a decisive victory in legislative elections on February 28, securing a close to two-third's supermajority (75 percent of the vote had been counted at the time of this writing).

His triumph will resonate far beyond the borders of El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, home to 6.5 million people. Now that Bukele has consolidated power in a big way, here are a few key developments to keep an eye on.

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