Vice President Kamala Harris claims the current crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border is largely the result of climate change and the economy. The president of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, disagrees.
In April, U.S.-Mexico border detentions reached a 21-year monthly high when over 178,000 migrants illegally crossed the border. A number of these unaccompanied minors and families who cross the U.S.-Mexico border come from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
Giammattei argues that the region’s climate and economy aren’t the prime culprits for the unprecedented rise in illegal U.S.-Mexico border crossings, but that the Biden administration’s immigration policies are to blame.
Despite the fact that Harris was placed in charge of diplomatic outreach on the migrant surge, she has refused to visit the border and went more than 41 days without holding a press conference on the growing crisis. Rather than converse directly with border communities and overwhelmed CBP agents, Harris traveled to Guatemala Sunday, as part of her first overseas trip since assuming the vice presidency.
Former President Donald Trump and his administration strongly opposed illegal immigration and asylum-seeker caravans. Trump focused on border wall construction and imposed a “Remain in Mexico” policy, which mandated that most Central American asylum-seekers wait in Mexico, while U.S. courts reviewed their persecution claims.
In contrast, President Joe Biden and his administration ended construction on the border wall and dismantled Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. Biden supports providing a path to citizenship for most illegal immigrants. In 2018, the federal government estimated that over 11 million reside in the country. The Biden administration’s rhetoric continues to be interpreted by many as an invitation to illegal border crossings.
When discussing the crisis, Giammattei recently stated that he and Harris “are not on the same side of the coin.”
He also said that “[he and his government] asked the United States government to send more of a clear message to prevent more people from leaving.”
Giammattei has not been the only one to criticize Harris recently. While he blames her and the rest of the Biden administration for the border crisis, some of his own people protested against Harris’s visit for more diverse reasons than immigration alone.
Upon her arrival, Harris’s motorcade was met with Guatamelans sporting large signs with slogans such as “Kamala, Go Home,” “Kamala, Trump won,” and “Kamala, Mind Your own Business.”
— El Nuevo Estado (@eInuevoestado) June 7, 2021
One sign said that “Guatemala is pro-life #MomalaHelpMe,” and included an edited image of a “pregnant” Harris (who doesn’t have biological children).
Criticisms of Harris aren’t just coming from the international community. Americans like Sen. Roger Marshall has also criticized Harris for her response to the border crisis and for failing to visit overwhelmed border communities.
It’s amazing that VP Harris traveled to Guatemala this week despite the fact that she has failed to visit border communities and CBP agents and officers overwhelmed by the crisis that this administration’s open border policies have created.
— Dr. Roger Marshall (@RogerMarshallMD) June 7, 2021
Despite these criticisms, Harris used Monday’s press conference to assert that a border visit would be a “grand gesture” unworthy of her time.
Asked about why she won't visit the border, Kamala Harris says she will pursue "significant, tangible, real results" in countries like Guatemala instead of "grand gestures" like visiting the border
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) June 7, 2021
Harris also says she “believes” that “if you come to our border, you will be turned back.” It remains unclear why she’s comfortable just “believing” this assertion—as opposed to verifying or debunking it with her own eyes.