Kamala Harris issues stern warning to migrants in Guatemala: ‘Do not come’

‘If you come to our border, you will be turned back’, VP says to Central American migrants

Via AP news wire
Tuesday 08 June 2021 18:12 BST
Kamala Harris tells Guatemalan migrants 'Do not come' to US-Mexico border
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Kamala Harris offered a stern message to Central American migrants as the vice president works with northern triangle governments to combat root causes of migration to the US.

“I want to emphasize that the goal of our work is to help Guatemalans find hope at home,” she said during a press conference in Guatemala with President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday in Guatemala City.

“At the same time, I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border,” she said. “Do not come. Do not come.”

Her remarks echoed similar calls from President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Majorkas as the administration untangled Donald Trump’s immigration policies and sought to repair an asylum system upended by the previous administration against a tide of recent migration fuelled by the pandemic, violence and drained economies.

Ms Harris said “if you come to our border, you will be turned back” and urged people to “discourage our friends, our neighbors, our family members from embarking on what is otherwise an extremely dangerous journey, where in large part the only people who benefit are coyotes.”

Ms Harris has been tasked by the president with addressing the root causes of the spike in migration to the US-Mexico border, and her aides say corruption will be a central focus of her meetings with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday and Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday.

“Corruption really does sap the the wealth of any country, and in Central America is at a scale where it is a large percentage of GDP across the region,” said special envoy Ricardo Zuniga.

“We see corruption as one of the most important root causes to be dealt with,” Zuniga added.

Harris is seeking to secure commitments from Guatemala and Mexico for greater cooperation on border security and economic investment, and aides say she will also discuss vaccine sharing during her meetings. But corruption in the region — a far more intractable challenge — will complicate her efforts.

While in Latin America, Harris will also have to navigate the politics of immigration. Congressional Republicans have criticized both Biden and Harris for deciding not to visit the border, and contend the administration is ignoring what they say is a crisis there. April was the second-busiest month on record for unaccompanied children encountered at the US-Mexico border, following March’s all-time high. The Border Patrol’s total encounters in April were up 3 per cent from March, marking the highest level since April 2000.

Conservatives will be watching Harris closely for any missteps, hoping to drag her into further controversy on an issue that they see as a political winner.

In her efforts to win commitments on corruption from the region's leaders, Harris can point to a number of moves by the Biden administration last week.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized the problem during his own recent trip to Central America. The White House issued a memo elevating foreign corruption to a major national security issue, and directed all federal agencies to prioritize it and modernize their foreign corruption-fighting tools.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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