Vice President Kamala Harris, who was appointed “border czar” in March by President Joe Biden, believes that the crisis at the border is rooted in economic issues and climate change.
“I’m thinking of corruption, the lack of climate adaptation and climate resilience, the lack of good governance,” Harris emphasized when speaking of the “main drivers” of the migrant surge at the southern U.S. border.
Harris and her staff emphasized that she and the Guatemalan president would be discussing strengthening the rule of law, bilateral law enforcement cooperation, economic opportunities, and other issues.
Harris spokeswoman Symone Sanders recently told reporters that corruption also plays a role in forcing migrants to flee their home countries.
The V.P. recently traveled to Guatemala as part of a two-day trip to countries from migrants are streaming into the U.S.
Critics of the Biden administration’s unclear border policy say that the rollback of former President Donald Trump’s border restrictions and strong enforcement policies have sent the message that the southern border is open.
The administration has repeatedly denied this and says that the border is closed.
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, however, agrees with those critics, saying in a recent interview that he and Harris “are not on the same side of the coin” regarding the causes of migration.
Giammattei contends that the welcome offered to migrants by the Biden administration — a 180-degree change from the previous administration — is responsible for the surge.
“The message changed, too: ‘We’re going to reunite families, we’re going to reunite children.’ The very next day, the coyotes were here organizing groups of children to take them to the United States,” the Guatemalan leader said.
“We asked the United States government to send more of a clear message to prevent more people from leaving.”
According to U.S. border officials, April saw more than 178,000 migrants cross the border, the highest one-month total in more than two decades. Almost 900,000 migrants were stopped by Customs and Border Protection between October 1, 2020, and May 31, 2021.
Calls for Harris to make an in-person visit to the U.S. border are increasing.
Since her March appointment to deal with the dramatically worsening crisis at the border, VP Harris has not visited. Critics say that it is critical that Harris come to the southern border to see firsthand what is happening and to inform the administration on what must happen to tackle the crisis.
Harris bristled during a recent interview when questioned about the border, saying, “At some point, you know, we are going to the border. We’ve been to the border. So this whole thing about the border, we’ve been to the border.”
Interviewer Lester Holt of NBC News pushed back at Harris, saying, “You haven’t been to the border.”
That statement led to a laugh from Harris as she responded, “And I haven’t been to Europe. And I mean, I don’t understand the point that you’re making. I’m not discounting the importance of the border.”