Jacquelyn Martin / AP
Vice President Harris, on her first overseas trip since taking office, sent a direct message to Guatemalans considering migrating to the United States: “Don’t come.
Speaking at a press conference Monday after meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, Harris said the Biden administration wanted “to help Guatemalans find hope at home”. She then added, “I want to be clear to the people of this region who are considering taking this dangerous trip to the US-Mexico border: don’t come. Don’t come.”
She added, “The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border.
A record number of people, mostly from Central America, have arrived at the US border with Mexico in recent months in an attempt to seek asylum, fleeing violence and corruption. The humanitarian challenge created a political problem for the Biden administration, and Republicans criticized Harris – charged with addressing the root causes of migration – for not making it to the border.
But her warning to potential migrants drew criticism from another prominent Democrat, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who called it “disappointing” and said the United States must “recognize its contributions to destabilization and regime change in the Region. “
On the tarmac in Guatemala, when asked why she insisted on telling migrants not to come … and this AOC review, Harris said, “Look, I’m really clear that we need to tackle the root causes and that’s my goal. Period. ” https://t.co/qt75Ptqv38
– Tamara Keith (@tamarakeithNPR) June 8, 2021
Asked about Ocasio-Cortez’s comment, Harris said she was focused on her mission.
“Listen – I’m really clear that we need to tackle the root causes. And that’s my goal. Period,” Harris said just before boarding Air Force Two for Mexico.
In Guatemala, Harris announced the formation of an anti-corruption task force, made up of officials from the ministries of justice, the treasury and the state, to tackle the thorny problem of corruption in the region. “We are creating this working group to fight corruption, to fight human trafficking, doing the job to make sure some progress is made if we are to attract investment,” said Harris.
“We must eradicate corruption wherever it exists,” she said. “It erodes the trust the people have in their government and their leaders.”
Harris had what she described as a “robust, candid and in-depth” conversation with the Guatemalan president, whose government has been accused of corruption. But Giammattei denied the accusation. “How many cases of corruption have I been charged with? he asked an American journalist. “I can give you the answer: Zero.”
In Guatemala, Harris announced $ 40 million to help boost education and economic opportunities for indigenous women and girls. She also said the administration would provide 500,000 COVID-19 vaccines, which she said would not end the pandemic in Guatemala, but “put a dent.”