Kamala Harris hosts virtual meeting with Guatemala president

Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday afternoon hosted a webcast meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei to discuss the “root causes” of the illegal immigration crisis on the US-Mexico border.

Harris has been President Biden’s point person on addressing the “root causes” of a surge in illegal crossings, but critics question her commitment, noting her lack of relevant travel and rare public events.

Harris said during brief opening remarks that “the Western hemisphere is our collective home” and that there would be a wide-ranging discussion closed to journalists.

“We are looking at the issue of poverty and the lack therefore of economic opportunities; the issue of extreme weather conditions and the lack of climate adaptation, as well as corruption and the lack of good governance, and violence against women, indigenous people, LBGTQ people and Afro-descendants,” she said.

Harris said “I look forward to traveling to Guatemala and meeting with you in person. Currently our plan is to come there in the month of June.” 

Harris has yet to visit Central America or tour the border — but she has traveled extensively to promote Biden’s nearly $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill and his proposed more than $2 trillion infrastructure package.

The vice president spoke last month by phone with Giammattei, whose citizens form one of the largest groups of migrants illegally crossing the US-Mexico border, and she recently said she plans to visit Guatemala and Mexico.

Harris said Monday that “the United States plans to increase relief to the region, strengthen our cooperation to manage migration in an effective, secure and humane manner.”

She also claimed that the US “is building a comprehensive strategy with international institutions with allies around the globe, with foundations here in the United States and the private sector as well as community organizations.”

Giammattei told Harris, according to a pool report, that “the Guatemalan government wishes to be your partner in order to address… not only poverty but of so many evils that affect us.”

There’s at least a 20-year high in illegal crossings along the border. Although the Biden administration claims it turns away all single adults and most family units under a Trump administration COVID-19 policy, it has allowed all unaccompanied minors to stay at least temporarily in cramped, jail-like facilities.

Biden on March 24 asked Harris to lead the US response to the unprecedented surge of migrants from the “Northern Triangle” — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — in Central America.

But the White House later emphasized she would address only the “root causes” of migration and not border enforcement.

In this role, Harris spoke last month with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, but she has yet to speak with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández or with El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele.

Last week, the top Republicans on three House committees wrote in a biting letter to Harris, “it is unclear what, if any actions you have directed or plan to initiate to respond to the crisis that continues to worsen each day.”