Kamala Harris Tells Guatemalans: Don't Come To The US

US Vice President Kamala Harris visited Guatemala for talks with President Alejandro Giammattei. AP

Harris' Guatemala visit was her first overseas trip as vice president, part of her mission of tackling root causes of migration from Central America to the United States.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said on Monday she had held "robust" talks with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on the need to fight corruption and deter undocumented immigration from Central America to the United States.

"Most people don't want to leave home; they don't want to leave the place where they grew up, where the language they know is spoken, where the culture they know is present and has been for centuries", she added. "The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our borders", Harris said at a news conference alongside Giammattei.

"I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that risky trek to the U.S. -Mexico border: Do not come".

Harris also said a US anti-corruption task force would work with local prosecutors to punish corrupt actors in the region.

She rejected Republican criticism of the fact that neither she nor Biden had visited the U.S. southern border, saying she had come to Central America to discuss matters in a "way that is significant and has real results" rather than making "grand gestures".

"The president and I discussed the importance of anti-corruption and the importance of an independent judiciary", Harris said.

American officials have in recent days called on Central American countries to defend democracy and fight corruption in a bid to improve conditions at home and thus eliminate a driving factor for migration.

She was tapped for the role at the end of March as the number of migrants looking to cross the US border surges.

The White House has emphasized that Harris's assignment is primarily a diplomatic one, focused on addressing the core issues on the ground in the Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) as well as Mexico, whose citizens make up a significant portion of those seeking asylum protections in the U.S.

Most Guatemalan migrants leave because of poverty, he said, and come from a few rural municipalities.

The United States orchestrated a coup against democratically elected leftist government Jacobo Arbenz in 1954, ushering in decades of military governments and a civil war estimated to have killed more than 200,000 people by the time it ended in 1996.

Harris talked about the creation of a task force to crack down on smuggling and human trafficking, and said, "The underlying reason for so much of what we are seeing in terms of this level and type of corruption is about profit". It said the group will complement efforts against corrupt actors.

Harris discussed sharing COVID-19 vaccines with Guatemala during the meeting, she said. On Monday, the vice president met with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei.



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