VP Harris to visit Guatemala and Mexico for talks on migration, economy

Immigration

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a virtual meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington on Friday, May 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Vice President Kamala Harris’ first trip to Guatemala and Mexico, which aims to lower migration from the region, will focus on areas such as economic development, climate and food insecurity and women’s issues, her advisers said.

Harris will land in Guatemala on Sunday and be in the country until Monday evening, senior adviser Symone Sanders told reporters on a call. She will then fly to Mexico on June 8, where she will spend the day before returning to Washington in the evening, Sanders said.

Harris will build on topics previously discussed with leaders in Guatemala and Mexico such as securing the border and leading trade missions to the region, her advisers said.

Sanders said there are “three key focuses we will lay out: economic development, climate and food insecurity and women and young people.”

The vice president has not yet spoken with leaders from El Salvador and Honduras, other countries in the region with significant migration to the United States.

In May, some Central American leaders pushed back on the Biden administration’s anti-corruption strategy, which included releasing a list labeling 17 regional politicians as corrupt.

President Joe Biden has faced pressure from Republicans and some Democrats in recent months as the number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border has risen to the highest level in two decades.

In March, Biden entrusted Harris with leading U.S. efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador aimed at improving conditions and lowering migration from the region.

Harris has since taken steps including speaking with policy experts, members of Congress and various stakeholders in the Northern Triangle countries. She also announced an additional $310 million in U.S. aid to Central America and recently secured investment commitments from 12 companies and groups including Microsoft Corp, Mastercard Inc and Nestle’s Nespresso.

The United States will send more border security officials to Guatemala to provide training in that country.

Washington is also working to open the first of several centers to provide resources to migrants in Guatemala, said Mazin Alfaqih, special adviser to the vice president for the Northern Triangle.

The centers will offer services to people seeking lawful pathways of migration to the United States as well as those in need of protection, asylum referrals and refugee resettlement.

Harris will also discuss “COVID cooperation” with both countries during her trip, said Sanders, who did not share details on whether that would include the sharing of vaccines.

On Tuesday, the United States formally ended the Trump-era “remain in Mexico” policy, which forced tens of thousands of Central American asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. court cases.

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