On her first overseas trip as the Vice President of USA, Kamala Harris on Monday, 7 June, told Guatemalans to not make the 'dangerous' journey to the US-Mexico border, encouraging them to 'find hope at home' instead.
“I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous track to the United States-Mexico border, Do not come, Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border. There are legal methods by which migration can and should occur. We as one of our priorities will discourage illegal migration and I believe if you come to our border you will be turned back.”Kamala Harris, Press Conference in Guatemala
Harris made the White House's stance on illegal migration clear by saying that the US border forces will send back any new arrivals. At the same time she promised to work together with the Guatemalans in solving the root cause of migration – corruption and poverty.
"This afternoon I met with community leaders in Guatemala . We talked about what barriers stand in the way for Guatemalans to build a future at home," Harris wrote on twitter.
In April 2021, the US borders saw the arrival of more than 178,000 migrants, the highest month total for over two decades, which made this trip a challenge for the democratic, pro-migration Biden administration.
‘This Is Disappointing’
While some applauded Harris for her frank statement and help to the Southerners, others condemned her for turning her back towards the migrants.
Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticised the vice president for her statement. She stated that seeking asylum at any US border is completely legal and should not be termed otherwise. She also mentioned the US' role in causing destabilisation in the Latin American countries, adding that US cannot wash its hands off and be unaffected by the consequences.
Several human rights groups by the likes of Human Rights First, The Asylum Seekers Advocacy Group reiterated the legal rights of migrants and refugees. The former called the vice president's statement 'disappointing', stating sending asylum seekers back is against the international law.
Kamala Harris' visit to the South is considered a step ahead in the cordial diplomatic relations between the two countries after tensions surfaced during the Trump government. In April, the Biden administration promised to aid Guatemala and in her address this Tuesday, the Vice President talked about deployment of 500,000 vaccines and 26 million USD for fighting the pandemic there.