Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters in Mexico on Tuesday countries in the region are “in large part, if not entirely” at fault for the U.S. southern border crisis that intensified under the new administration.
“I want to be very clear that the problem at the border in large part, if not entirely, stems from the problems in these countries,” Harris declared during a joint press conference with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). “I cannot say it enough. Most people don’t want to leave home.”
Her comments came after the Mexican president, commonly known as AMLO, and his counterparts from El Salvador and Guatemala accused the Biden administration’s overwhelmingly welcoming policy of incentivizing Central Americans to leave their home country.
After meeting Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei Monday, during her first foreign trip as VP, Harris met AMLO in Mexico City Tuesday to discuss immigration policy.
Harris told reporters that to tackle the border problem, the United States must go beyond addressing the “root causes” driving people from the Central American Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, the primary source of the migrant surge.
“We also must, of course, tackle the issues that are inherent in the situation at the border,” Harris continued, adding the Biden administration must also address “what we must do to strengthen legal pathways for people to enter the United States.”
President Joe Biden has tasked Harris with leading the White House response to the border crisis and engaging in diplomatic efforts with the Northern Triangle countries to address the main drivers of immigration. However, Harris has chosen to solely focus on dealing with the “root causes” of migration in Central America, believing that being linked to the border crisis could be politically harmful to her chances of becoming president.
The Latin American leader to most recently blame the Biden administration for the border crisis is Giammattei.
During an interview with CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that aired Sunday, the Guatemalan leader said the Biden administration’s promise to “reunite” migrant families and children with their relatives in America is incentivizing Central Americans to head to the U.S.
AMLO and Giammattei blamed President Biden’s lenient border security policies for the surge before more than once.
The Mexican president’s administration has gone a step further, saying President Biden’s haste to undo his predecessor’s border security and immigration enforcement measures are at fault of the humanitarian crisis unfolding at the U.S. southern border.
In May, the Washington Post reported:
Mexican officials, including Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, have been privately frustrated with Biden’s rapid-fire rollback of Trump policies, according to current and former U.S. and Mexican officials, because Mexico thought Biden’s moves incentivized migration in the short term while his proposed solutions consisted of long-term measures that could take years to make a difference.
Republicans have made similar allegations, denied by Biden, who claims the border is closed to non-essential travel due to Trump-era pandemic control protocols (Title 42) that he has kept in place and allow the government to deport any migrant.
However, the Biden Administration has loosened the Title 42 restrictions, providing removal exemptions to unaccompanied children, some families, vulnerable individuals, and migrants from outside the Americas.
Central Americans, migrants from outside the Americas, traveling from as far as Africa and Asia, have taken these policy changes, as well as the more permissive border security approach under Biden as a sign the president is inviting them to cross the border.
Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele told. Fox News in May that the lack of economic opportunities in his country is “bad for the United States because immigration will go up, and it’s bad for our country because [of] people leaving the country … so it’s bad for both of us.”
He emphasized U.S. incentives for migrants are gutting El Salvador of people who could contribute to the economy in their home without leaving.
Biden’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees border security and the enforcement of immigration laws in the interior of the country, are releasing migrants and asylum-seekers without court dates.