Vice President Kamala Harris was blunt in her message to Guatemalans who may be thinking about migrating to the United States: “Do not come.”
Harris is in charge of leading diplomatic relations in the Latin American region in hopes of reducing the amount of migrants attempting to make the treacherous journey into the United States.
In her first international trip since assuming the vice presidency, Harris met with Alejandro Giammattei, the president of the Central American nation and speaking at a news conference she warned that trying to make the 1,500 mile trip illegally is not worth the risk.
“I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border,” she said. “Do not come. Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border.”
There have been record numbers of people coming from Guatemala to the U.S. border in an attempt to seek asylum, and to run from violence and corrupt elements that have beset the country. In her meeting with Giammattei, Harris discussed poverty and a lack of opportunity among Guatemalans as an underlying cause of the abrupt migration.
Creating solutions for people in the country, she said would be of interest to the United States and at the same time said venturing northward illegally should be discouraged.
“There are legal methods by which migration can and should occur, but we, as one of our priorities, will discourage illegal migration,” Harris said. “And I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back. So let’s discourage our friends, our neighbors, our family members, from embarking on what is otherwise an extremely dangerous journey, where in large part the only people who benefit are coyotes.”
However, there were those who criticized the vice president on her stance toward illegal immigration from Guatemala. Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez differed with Harris and criticized long term U.S. policy on the region.
“It would be helpful if the US would finally acknowledge its contributions to destabilization and regime change in the region,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet. Doing so can help us change US foreign policy, trade policy, climate policy, & carceral border policy to address causes of mass displacement & migration.”