A mother and daughter from Nicaragua embrace after crossing the border from Mexico into the United States on March 26, 2021 in Penitas, Texas. The mother said she was worried that they might be deported, as she heard during their journey that US immigration authorities have only been accepting families with younger children for asylum cases. [Photo/Agencies]

GUATEMALA CITY – US President Joe Biden’s special envoy to the so-called Northern Triangle group of Central American countries will kick off his two-nation tour, aimed at addressing soaring migration, by meeting Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday afternoon.

The Northern Triangle countries are Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, which in recent years have provided the bulk of US-bound migrants.

Ricardo Zúñiga’s visit comes as migrants crossing the US-Mexico border set a record last month, adding urgency to Biden’s push to revamp US border policy while bringing migrant flows under better control.

Zúñiga’s meeting with Giammattei will be followed by talks with other Guatemalan officials on Tuesday, a statement from Giammattei’s office said, adding that beyond migration, the officials will also discuss economic development and security issues.

The American envoy will also visit El Salvador later in the week, according to a White House statement issued on Sunday, but details of that leg of Zúñiga’s trip have not yet been announced.

While Zúñiga is not scheduled to visit Honduras this week, he did discuss migration “in a comprehensive fashion” with Honduran Foreign Minister Lisandro Rosales last Friday, according to a statement from the ministry on Monday.

Further talks between Honduran officials and Zúñiga are expected to continue on April 9 in Washington, the statement added.

US authorities caught more than 171,000 migrants along the US-Mexico in March, the highest monthly total in two decades and the latest sign of the mounting humanitarian challenge confronting Biden’s two-month old administration.

The March figures represent a 178% increase in the number of migrant families caught at the border compared with the previous month.