•   
  •   
  •   

US Harris tackles migration in high-profile visit to Guatemala and Mexico. Here’s what’s on the agenda.

13:40  06 june  2021
13:40  06 june  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

Who is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Mexican president who met with Kamala Harris today?

  Who is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Mexican president who met with Kamala Harris today? Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador meets with Harris Tuesday as she leads efforts to stem illegal immigration at the southern border.The Vice President met with community organizers, business owners and Presidents Alejandro Giammattei and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leaders of Guatemala and Mexico, respectively. In March, President Joe Biden tasked Harris with addressing an increase in migration  — including unaccompanied minors  — at the southern border.

WASHINGTON – In her maiden trip abroad as vice president, Kamala Harris will travel to Guatemala and Mexico where she'll meet this week with foreign leaders, community organizers and entrepreneurs in hopes of forging partnerships to help stem migration to the U.S. by addressing its root causes.

Kamala Harris sitting at a table: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris participates in a meeting with Guatemalan justice sector leaders at the Vice President's Ceremonial Office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building May 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. In the meeting, Vice President Harris discussed the importance of a just, transparent, and impartial legal system in Guatemala that allows Guatemalans to build a safer and better future. © Alex Wong, Getty Images U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris participates in a meeting with Guatemalan justice sector leaders at the Vice President's Ceremonial Office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building May 19, 2021 in Washington, DC. In the meeting, Vice President Harris discussed the importance of a just, transparent, and impartial legal system in Guatemala that allows Guatemalans to build a safer and better future.

It's a tall order for Harris, whose portfolio expanded earlier this week when President Joe Biden tapped her to lead the administration's efforts to protect voting rights as several Republican-led states move to restrict access to the ballot.

Harris turns focus to Mexico on trip to address migration

  Harris turns focus to Mexico on trip to address migration MEXICO CITY (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris is closing out her first foreign trip Tuesday with a visit to Mexico and a meeting with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a key but complicated ally in the Biden administration’s efforts to curb the spike in migration at the U.S. border. While Lopez Obrador committed in a previous virtual meeting with Harris that the U.S. can “count on us” to help address the issue of irregular migration, the Mexican president has in the past blamed President Joe Biden for the increase in migration at the border. And he was chummy with his predecessor, President Donald Trump, despite Trump’s hardline polcies towards migrants.

The two-day jaunt will test Harris' diplomatic and negotiating skills as she looks to resolve a politically fraught issue that's vexed several administrations and further cleaved apart Republicans and Democrats.

Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning.

Harris has largely adapted a strategy Biden employed when he served in a similar role as former President Barack Obama's vice president: working with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to address poverty, violence, corruption, lack of economic opportunity and other conditions forcing hundreds of thousands of migrants from their homes to seek refuge in the U.S.

Kamala Harris looking at the camera: Vice President Kamala Harris waits to speak during an event on high speed internet access in the South Court Auditorium at the White House complex on June 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. © Drew Angerer, Getty Images Vice President Kamala Harris waits to speak during an event on high speed internet access in the South Court Auditorium at the White House complex on June 3, 2021 in Washington, DC.

'We get the brunt': How the influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border is playing out in Texas border towns

Harris visits Latin America to tackle migration, corruption

  Harris visits Latin America to tackle migration, corruption WASHINGTON (AP) — Kamala Harris, on her first foreign trip as vice president, is looking to deepen diplomatic ties with Guatemala and Mexico, two Latin American nations key to the Biden administration's efforts to stem the spike in migration at the U.S. border. Harris, who is set to depart Washington later Sunday, is seeking to secure commitments for greater cooperation on border security and economic investment, but corruption in the region — a far more intractable challenge — will complicate her efforts. It’s already had a significant impact on her work in the region.

Though the issues are deeply embedded in the countries, experts say the vice president has an opportunity to deepen relationships with Guatemala and Mexico by proposing policy changes that could help address a record uptick in migrants at the U.S. southern border. Such proposals include enhancing anti-corruption initiatives, providing aid and partnering with non-governmental organizations and assisting Central American countries struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador signaled support for the Biden administration's approach in virtual meetings with Harris earlier this year, but the contours of those agreements are still taking shape.

Ariel Ruiz Soto, a policy analyst for the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, said while he doesn't expect any significant compromises or agreements, the trip sets a new tone and serves as a symbolic gesture that the U.S. is reprioritizing in long-term solutions in the region after four years of cuts in aid by former President Donald Trump.

Harris targets corruption, immigration on Latin America trip

  Harris targets corruption, immigration on Latin America trip GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — With Kamala Harris visiting Guatemala and Mexico on her first foreign trip as vice president, the Biden administration is expected to announce new measures to fight smuggling and trafficking, and hopes to announce additional anti-corruption efforts as well on Monday, a senior administration official said. The official, who briefed reporters traveling with Harris on Sunday, spoke on condition of anonymity to preview announcements before they have been made public. No further details were provided. Harris has been tasked by President Joe Biden with addressing the root causes of the spike in migration to the U.S.

"The visit is really to solidify not just the commitments from these countries, but actionable items that could be used in the future to hold these countries responsible and accountable and also to give a little more viability to civil society organizations in Guatemala that have for so long looked for an additional opening to be more in the picture," he said.

US-Mexico border: Rep. Henry Cuellar, one of Biden's harshest critics on the migrant surge, urges White House to listen to border towns

Harris defends telling migrants 'do not come,' not visiting US-Mexico border

  Harris defends telling migrants 'do not come,' not visiting US-Mexico border Vice President Kamala Harris is facing backlash from conservatives for not having visited the southern border and from progressives for telling immigrants "Do not come." Harris, currently on the second half of a two-day visit to Guatemala and Mexico, has been facing backlash from conservatives for not visiting the southern border since President Joe Biden tasked her with an immigration role in March, when a record-breaking number of unaccompanied minors were crossing the southern border. Now, she is hearing new criticism from progressives for using her international spotlight in Guatemala on Monday to tell immigrants, "Do not come.

For Harris, the trip also helps her burnish her credibility in the region and gives her a direct line to Central American and Mexican governments should they falter on agreements, Ruiz added.

"I think we're moving beyond commitments to action, and to a more specific and more shared expertise in the region," he added, "but it's hard to tell how receptive the Mexican and Guatemalan presidents are going to be on this."

Symone Sanders, Harris' chief spokeswoman, told reporters Tuesday the vice president's strategy is "built around catalyzing efforts across the United States government, regional governments as well as well as private sector and philanthropic sectors and international partners."

Harris told to 'go home' by protesters during her trip to Guatemala

  Harris told to 'go home' by protesters during her trip to Guatemala Kamala Harris was greeted with protesters demanding she 'mind her own business' when she arrived in Guatemala for her first international trip as vice president. 'Kamala go home,' one white flag with black painted letters read.

Talks will center on economic development, climate and food insecurity and support for women and young people, she said.

Here's a look at issues likely to come up in Harris' discussions.

Biden and AMLO: ‘High-level chess’: How Biden is navigating his relationship with Mexico’s President ‘AMLO’

Anti-corruption efforts

Experts say conditions have dramatically shifted in the region, including a backslide in democracy, rule of law and human rights.

Last month the State Department issued a list of 16 current and former politicians it found to be corrupt in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has been implicated in drug-trafficking charges in recent years while his brother was sentenced to life for drug-trafficking by a Manhattan court. Orlando Hernández denies the allegations.

a person holding a stop sign in front of a crowd: Students from the University of El Salvador hold a demonstration against Salvadorian President Nayib Bukele, a year after the military incursion into the Legislative Assembly, in San Salvador, on February 9, 2021. - On February 9, 2020, soldiers entered El Salvador's parliament as the president demanded lawmakers approve a $109 million loan to equip the military and police to fight against violent gangs. (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS / AFP) (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images) © MARVIN RECINOS, AFP via Getty Images Students from the University of El Salvador hold a demonstration against Salvadorian President Nayib Bukele, a year after the military incursion into the Legislative Assembly, in San Salvador, on February 9, 2021. - On February 9, 2020, soldiers entered El Salvador's parliament as the president demanded lawmakers approve a $109 million loan to equip the military and police to fight against violent gangs. (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS / AFP) (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images)

Salvadorian President Nayib Bukele has faced global condemnation after his allies in the National Assembly removed five judges from the country's Supreme Court as well as the attorney general in what was seen as a power grab. Elsewhere, the State Department's annual human rights report warned of Mexico's gang violence, limits on press freedom and criticized the country's prison and detention center conditions. Lopez Obrador slammed the U.S. for the annual report and for giving aid to an NGO that criticized his government.

Kamala Harris Sticks to 'Root Causes' Migration Message, Doesn't Respond to AOC's Criticism

  Kamala Harris Sticks to 'Root Causes' Migration Message, Doesn't Respond to AOC's Criticism "This is disappointing to see," Ocasio-Cortex said in a tweet. "First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival. Second, the US spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America. We can't help set someone's house on fire and then blame them for fleeing." This is disappointing to see.First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival.Second, the US spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America. We can’t help set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for fleeing. https://t.

Adriana Beltrán, director of citizen security at the Washington Office on Latin America, said Harris needs to be "very clear" in addressing rule of law in Guatemala, including a controversial law targeting non-governmental organizations as well as the recent decision by the country's Congress to refuse to swear in a judge – a prominent anti-corruption figure – to its Constitutional Court.

Immigration: What would a better US immigration system look like? We asked the experts.

"They need to be clear to have foreign investment for development and security, you need an independent judiciary," she said.

Beltrán said she hopes Harris meets with some of the judges, members of civil society and journalists who have suffered harassment and been the target of lawsuits to undercut their anti-corruption agenda. Those who've been targeted require political backing of the U.S., she added.

Ahead of Harris' visit, the Biden administration unveiled a “national security study memorandum“ to make fighting global corruption a priority. A senior administration official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity before the memorandum was released said anti-corruption will be "front and center in the vice president's upcoming trip."

"Anti-corruption is a major focus for the administration and will be a focus of all her conversations while she's traveling," the official said of Harris.

Foreign investment

As part of its fight against corruption and a broader diplomatic strategy in the region, the administration has proposed $4 billion in aid to tackle the root causes of migration. But the White House has been careful to ensure the funding would not only go to governments but also to NGOs and civil society groups – entities Beltrán said Guatemala is actively trying to undermine.

Blunt message, search for answers mark VP's 1st foreign trip

  Blunt message, search for answers mark VP's 1st foreign trip MEXICO CITY (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris came to Latin America to deliver a message rather than clinch some kind of concrete deal. She bluntly told migrants not to travel to the United States. She spoke of the evils of government corruption that lead to dislocation. She urged nations to increase enforcement at their borders. She completed the journey without securing any commitments to increase immigration enforcement or expand pathways to legal migration. But she also did so without a significant mistake.

Administration officials have signaled any funding sent directly to Northern Triangle governments would be contingent on measures of anti-corruption and good governance. Experts say a similar strategy under the Obama administration allowed some aid to embolden corrupt governments rather than provide critical assistance to communities in need.

LA JOYA, TEXAS - APRIL 13: A Guatemalan family waits with fellow immigrants to board a U.S. Customs and Border Protection bus to a processing center after crossing the border from Mexico on April 13, 2021 in La Joya, Texas. A surge of immigrants, including record numbers of children, making the arduous journey from Central America to the United States has challenged U.S. immigration agencies along the southern border. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) © John Moore, Getty Images LA JOYA, TEXAS - APRIL 13: A Guatemalan family waits with fellow immigrants to board a U.S. Customs and Border Protection bus to a processing center after crossing the border from Mexico on April 13, 2021 in La Joya, Texas. A surge of immigrants, including record numbers of children, making the arduous journey from Central America to the United States has challenged U.S. immigration agencies along the southern border. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

"The aid can't just be showered bluntly or blindly and sort of being expected to trickle down," said Noah Gottschalk, lead on global policy at Oxfam America, an organization aimed at fighting poverty. "It has to target the roots of the issues that people are dealing with."

Less than 5% of U.S. foreign assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras between 2010 and 2020 went to local organizations, according to Faith in Action, a national network of faith-based community organizations in the U.S.

ICE: Biden administration closes two ICE facilities after allegations of abuse

But Gottschalk cautioned progress would not be immediate: "Even if they do that we're not going to expect to see a decline in the number of people at the border tomorrow."

In a virtual meeting with Giammattei in April, Harris announced the U.S. would invest an additional $310 million in aid to tackle food shortages, natural disasters, the pandemic and other humanitarian issues eroding economic conditions in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Among the resources the Biden administration is looking to provide are migrant resource centers to offer assistance for those looking for legal pathways to the U.S., those seeking protection, and migrants who have been deported.

a man sitting at a table: President Joe Biden delivers brief remarks to the press during a meeting with members of his Cabinet and immigration advisors in the State Dining Room on March 24, 2021 in Washington, D.C. With the number of migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border reaching a two-decade high, Biden announced that Vice President Kamala Harris will be leading the White House efforts to handle the crisis at the border. © Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images President Joe Biden delivers brief remarks to the press during a meeting with members of his Cabinet and immigration advisors in the State Dining Room on March 24, 2021 in Washington, D.C. With the number of migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border reaching a two-decade high, Biden announced that Vice President Kamala Harris will be leading the White House efforts to handle the crisis at the border.

Harris and Giammattei agreed to open two migrant centers and White House officials say they expect the first one to be open by the time of her visit to Guatemala.

More recently, Harris unveiled commitments from 12 companies and organizations, including Microsoft and Mastercard, to invest in economic development in the Northern Triangle countries. The funding will go toward job training programs, food assistance and aid for vulnerable populations like women, indigenous people and young people.

Gottschalk said the private sector investments are another area where the U.S can make sure its not repeating history of corporate investments that are "largely extractive," and instead focus on creating sustainable investments that benefit the communities in the region.

COVID-19 vaccines

As the coronavirus pandemic persists, countries are clamoring for the U.S. to share its trove of surplus vaccines. The Biden administration outlined its plan last week to share an initial 25 million doses through the global vaccine alliance known as COVAX, pledging to send about 6 million to South and Central America, 7 million to Asia and 5 million to Africa.

Biden, who said last month nearly half of the world's leaders had asked him for help in obtaining COVID-19 vaccines, has promised to share 80 million surplus doses worldwide by the end of June.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Mexico's Undersecretary of Health, Hugo Lopez-Gatell (C), speaks after receiving his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 at a vaccination center for people over 50 years old set up at the Benito Juarez primary school in Mexico City on May 13, 2021. (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP) (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP via Getty Images) © ALFREDO ESTRELLA, AFP via Getty Images Mexico's Undersecretary of Health, Hugo Lopez-Gatell (C), speaks after receiving his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 at a vaccination center for people over 50 years old set up at the Benito Juarez primary school in Mexico City on May 13, 2021. (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AFP) (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP via Getty Images)

Giammattei said Thursday Guatemala would receive half a million doses from the U.S., a move that some see as pre-empting Harris' discussions in Guatemala City, the nation's capital.

Immigration and Biden: Joe Biden’s immigration agenda overshadowed by migrant challenges in first 100 days

The U.S. has already agreed to loan 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Mexico, which has one of the world's highest per capita COVID-19 death rates. The  AstraZeneca vaccine has yet to be approved for federal emergency authorization.

Also on the agenda in Mexico is a Trump-era public health order that allowed U.S. officials to immediately expel migrants apprehended at the border. The policy, known as Title 42, was enacted in the early months of the pandemic as a means of curbing the spread of COVID-19 although it circumvented U.S. immigration law.

The Biden administration kept the order in place but issued an exemption for unaccompanied minors. The policy is expected to be a friction point as Biden has faced mounting pressure to rescind the policy as the country begins to lift COVID-19 restrictions. Mexico, too, has in some cases refused to accept migrants back into its country as it had under the Trump administration.

TPS status for Guatemalans

Ahead of Harris’ visit to Guatemala and Mexico, activists are calling for the Biden Administration to designate temporary protective status for Guatemalans.

TPS, created by Congress in 1990, exempts immigrants from deportation and provides provisional protection if the U.S. determines their countries have been afflicted by armed conflict, epidemics or natural disasters.

Guatemala has not previously been the subject of a TPS, according to Rosario Martínez, a migration researcher at FLACSO Guatemala, a Latin American and Caribbean international organization that promotes, researches and teaches in the field of social sciences.  But    a designation would promote “orderly and safe migration," she said.

Activists contend  officials should designate the status due to the ongoing economic hardships in the country that were exacerbated by  the COVID-19 pandemic and compounded by  back-to-back hurricanes last fall that decimated the region.

SUBSCRIBE: Help support quality journalism like this.

Some activists also want to see a new TPS designation for individuals from other Central American countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Currently, there is a TPS designation for some individuals from those three countries but it’s being litigated in the courts on whether the designation can continue. Those who have TPS from those countries still receive the benefits, but they are set to expire in October. New applicants from those countries, however, cannot apply. Therefore, some activists are saying that a new TPS designation for these countries is necessary.

Last month, Mayorkas announced a new TPS designation for Haitians. There was a previous TPS designation for Haiti, but it was also being litigated in the courts. The new designation allows new applicants to apply for TPS.

When asked whether Harris would discuss granting TPS for Guatemalans during her visit to the country, a Harris’ aide said that conversations are ongoing but would not expand further on the topic.

“We don't want to get ahead of the conversations, nor the Vice President and the very important work that she is doing,” Harris spokeswoman Symone Sanders told reporters on a call Tuesday.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Harris tackles migration in high-profile visit to Guatemala and Mexico. Here’s what’s on the agenda.

Blunt message, search for answers mark VP's 1st foreign trip .
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris came to Latin America to deliver a message rather than clinch some kind of concrete deal. She bluntly told migrants not to travel to the United States. She spoke of the evils of government corruption that lead to dislocation. She urged nations to increase enforcement at their borders. She completed the journey without securing any commitments to increase immigration enforcement or expand pathways to legal migration. But she also did so without a significant mistake.

usr: 1
This is interesting!