Vice President Kamala Harris on Sunday will leave for a two-day trip to Mexico and Guatemala as part of her efforts to lead diplomatic talks to tackle what the administration describes as “root causes” of the crisis at the southern border.
Why is Harris visiting Mexico and Guatemala?
Harris was appointed by Biden to lead the diplomatic outreach in March, just as the administration was scrambling to deal with a massive surge in migration at the border — coming mainly from Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Harris has come under intense criticism for not having visited the border, and for not having held a press conference on the issue. Her office has said she is not involved with the border per se, but the root causes.
Those root causes include poverty, economic instability and extreme weather in Central America.
“We are looking at extensive storm damage because of extreme climate, we’re looking at drought in an area in a region where agriculture is one of the most traditionally important basis for their economy, we’re looking at what’s happening in terms of food scarcity as a result of that and in fact, incredible food insecurity, which we used to call hunger food insecurity,” she said in April.
The administration has a $4 billion long term investment for Central America, and has so far pledged $310 million in investment for the region as part of the effort to tackle “root causes.”
Who will Harris meet in Guatemala?
Harris will depart Joint Base Andrews on Sunday and travel to Guatemala, where she will stay until late Monday before moving to Mexico.
According to her office, the goal is to deepen the U.S. strategic partnership and will focus on the relationship with the Guatemalan government and community leaders and private sector entities. Her office says a “multi-pronged” approach will include addressing climate change, food insecurity, poverty, violence and corruption.
She will hold a bilateral meeting with President Alejandro Giammattei, where she will discuss increasing economic opportunities and strengthening the rule of law, and deeper bilateral law enforcement cooperation. She will also meet with community leaders and entrepreneurs — as well as U.S. embassy staff.
Who will Harris meet in Mexico?
In Mexico, Harris will have a bilateral meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, to discuss how the two can cooperate to bolster efforts in the Northern Triangle, as well as strengthening bilateral cooperation on economic and security issues, including immigration enforcement. She will also participate in a conversation with women entrepreneurs as well as a labor roundtable and a meeting with U.S. Mission staff.
Officials have also emphasized that anti-corruption measures are going to be “front and center” of the trip, and Harris herself has called out corruption issues in places like El Salvador.
What is the goal of Harris’ trip?
How much will be achieved by Harris’ trip is unclear, although there have been signs that the White House has been trying to tamp down expectations for what can be achieved in the trip alone.
Officials have emphasized that the U.S. cannot solve this issue by itself, and it needs collaboration with governments and other organizations — including the United Nations. Harris herself has emphasized that she does not believe the root causes approach will lead to immediate results.
“I have been asked to lead the issue of dealing with root causes in the Northern Triangle, similar to what the then-Vice President did many years ago,” she said in April. “But I will tell you these are issues that aren’t going to be addressed overnight.”
That month there were more than 178,000 migrant encounters at the southern border.