Vice President Kamala Harris and her team replied to Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei’s accusation that the Biden administration is at fault for the border problem by blaming climate change and other factors.
Harris, who has been in charge of dealing with the ongoing immigration crisis at the United States’ southern border for nearly three months, has focused her efforts on Central America. As a result, she ignores overcrowding and other problems plaguing U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Daily Wire reported.
According to Washington Examiner, as the vice president landed in Guatemala on Sunday, June 6, Harris spokeswoman Symone Sanders told reporters that climate change and a lack of economic opportunity were the “main drivers” contributing to the country’s border issue.
Those sentiments are broadly in line with Harris’s statement last month when she pledged to focus on the border problem’s “root causes.”
“I’m thinking of corruption, violence, and poverty, the lack of economic opportunity, the lack of climate adaptation and climate resilience, the lack of good governance,” Harris said at the time, listing her ideas on what was driving a flood of asylum seekers to the southern border.
On this trip, she will deal with the “lack of economic opportunity” issue almost immediately, handing over millions of dollars to Guatemala as part of a multibillion-dollar Biden administration strategy to enhance regional economic stability.
“Traveling abroad for her first time as vice president, Harris will arrive Sunday evening in Guatemala bearing gifts: pledges for hundreds of thousands of coronavirus vaccine doses, $310 million in regional humanitarian aid, and a $4 billion long-term plan to boost development and security across Central America,” The Washington Post noted last Sunday. “Those sweeteners may be used to offset what are expected to be tougher messages about battling corruption and upholding democratic norms.”
Guatemalan president Giammattei, on the other hand, made it clear that he and Vice President Biden “are not on the same side of the coin” on this topic. Instead, Giammattei appeared to blame the spike on the Biden administration’s welcoming attitude toward immigrants.
“The message changed too: ‘We’re going to reunite families, we’re going to reunite children,’” Giammattei told CBS News. “The very next day, the coyotes were here organizing groups of children to take them to the United States.”
He said he thinks Harris will listen to his government’s appeal for President Joe Biden to take a stricter stance on immigration.
“We asked the United States government to send more of a clear message to prevent more people from leaving,” he told CBS.
Following her discussion with Giammattei, Harris appeared to change her tune in a press conference on Monday, June 7.
“I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: ‘Do not come. Do not come,'” Harris said. “The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border.”
Later in the day, Harris stated that she would continue to work on the “root causes” of the migration situation.
“I’m really clear we have to deal with the root causes. And that is my focus. Period,” Harris said shortly before departing on Air Force Two.
The vice president also announced the formation of a task force to address regional corruption, which the administration feels contributes to the migratory flow.
“We are creating this task force to address corruption, to address human smuggling, doing the work to make sure certain progress be made if we are going to attract investment,” Harris said.
“We must root out corruption wherever it exists,” she said. “It erodes the confidence the people have in their government and its leaders.”
Giammattei, illustrating the chasm between the two sides, disputed accusations of corruption in his country.
“How many cases of corruption have I been accused of?” Giammattei asked an American reporter. “I can give you the answer: zero.”