On his first international trip as US Vice President, Kamala Harris traveled to Guatemala to address one of the sensitive White House issues under his responsibility, the migration crisis.
Along with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, during a press conference on Monday (7), Kamala made a firm statement to those who intend to take the dangerous road to the north: “Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and protect our borders. If you come, you will be fired ”.
Daughter of migrants herself, the US Vice President said she had had a “solid, frank and in-depth” conversation with Giammattei on the need to fight corruption and prevent the migration of undocumented migrants from Central America to United States.
“Most people don’t want to leave their homes, they don’t want to leave the place where the language they know is spoken.” Kamala said those who migrate “are fleeing certain dangers or simply cannot meet their basic needs by staying at home”.
Therefore, he reiterated, it is important that governments give people “a sense of hope, that help is on the way”, in a region hard hit by Covid-19, violence and violence. poverty, a situation that was worsened in 2020 by the passage of two hurricanes.
“Hope does not exist on its own,” Kamala added. “It must be accompanied by relationships of trust, by tangible results in terms of what we do as leaders to convince people that there is reason to hope for their future.”
To deal with the problem, the Guatemalan president announced a new processing center for migrants returned from Mexico and the United States and said that the goal of these two countries should be to create prosperity.
Giammattei also said that his country’s problems are the product of many years of delay. “We must create in the minds of the Guatemalans this possibility of generating the hope that this is where they must fight to build the country and not fight to risk their lives to go to other countries like the United States.”
The vice president also answered questions about criticism from Republicans that she had not done enough to curb migration in the short term, saying she was working locally with Guatemala. “I focus on this kind of work, rather than the grand gestures.”
Also on this front, the US Department of Justice announced Monday the creation of a task force to combat human trafficking in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that Joint Task Force Alpha will pool the resources of its department and the National Security portfolio against the region’s largest and most dangerous groups.
In the announcement, the department also said it would work to help those countries enforce anti-trafficking laws in their own courts, in addition to strengthening the investigations and legal proceedings of these groups.
The United States is facing a serious border crisis, with the largest influx of migrants arriving in the country in 20 years. During the campaign, Biden vowed to give more humane treatment to foreigners trying to enter the United States undocumented and to facilitate access to American citizenship for 11 million immigrants, but the lack of control at the border has eclipsed measures already in place, such as the one designed to reunite the families of the separated at the border of the Trump administration.
Biden has come under heavy attack, including by allies, for restricting access to the press to monitor the work of border patrols with Mexico and for the high volume of unaccompanied children who remain in detention centers for more than 72 hours authorized by law. .
But pressure from Washington to tackle the root causes of migration in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras has been hampered by a backlash against anti-corruption agencies, considered independent by the United States but that local elites say. biased.
The issue was also discussed during the three-hour meeting between Kamala and Giammattei. In preparation for the vice president’s visit, differences of opinion arose over the fight against corruption, with criticisms of Giammattei directed against those working on this front. Washington has criticized the dismissal of a high court judge in Guatemala in what the President of the Central American country called a legitimate process.
“The president and I discussed the importance of fighting corruption and an independent judiciary,” said Kamala, who gave more details on a joint task force between the two countries. According to the US vice president, the job will require the justice, state and treasury departments to work alongside local lawyers.
Giammattei, for his part, defended his own record, saying he had not been accused of wrongdoing and that corruption was not the only problem facing politicians. The fight against drug trafficking must be part of the fight against corruption, the president said.
The two also discussed sharing Covid-19 vaccines with Guatemala. The vice president confirmed that the United States will provide 500,000 doses, in addition to $ 26 million in aid to fight the pandemic.
Kamala will also meet with civil society leaders and entrepreneurs across the country. According to the White House, the priorities of these meetings include economic development, climate and issues related to food insecurity and women.
The vice president then travels to Mexico, for a visit that has been criticized for taking place just after the country’s midterm elections – which were marred by violence.