Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Sunday blamed the U.S. southern border crisis on the Biden administration sending a more welcoming message to Central American migrants by vowing to ‘reunite’ families and children with their relatives in America.
“The very next day [after the Biden administration’s message], the coyotes were here organizing groups of children to take them to the United States,” Giammattei, who has blamed President Joe Biden’s lenient border security policies for the surge in the past, declared.
“We asked the United States government to send more of a clear message to prevent more people from leaving,” he added.
His comments came during an interview aired by CBS News’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, on the eve of Kamala Harris’s first foreign trip as vice president to Guatemala and Mexico Tuesday.
VP Harris will travel to Central America on Monday to address immigration with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei. CBS News senior White House and political correspondent @edokeefe reports on the vice president’s first overseas trip since taking office. pic.twitter.com/Rnqn4H6RAC
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) June 6, 2021
Harris was greeted by protesters holding signs saying, “Mind Your Business, “Go Home,” and even, “Kamala Trump Won,” with the organizing group, Society in Action, calling her an “illegitimate” leader.
President Joe Biden tasked Harris with leading the White House response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis at the U.S. southern border fueled by migrants predominantly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Biden also charged his VP with addressing migration’s “root causes” via diplomatic engagements with Central America.
However, Harris and her team have repeatedly said her high-profile assignment is not to deal with the border crisis but rather the main drivers of migration.
On Sunday, Giammattei told Ed O’Keefe during the segment on Face the Nation that he and Harris “are not on the same side of the coin” on the issue of what is attracting Guatemalan migrants towards the U.S.
During the interview, he again blamed the surge at the U.S. border on what he described as a more welcoming message to migrants by the new administration.
“The message [for migrants] changed [under Biden] too: ‘We’re going to reunite families, we’re going to reunite children,'” the Guatemalan president told CBS News.
While briefing reporters in Guatemala, Harris reiterated her previous message that a lack of economic opportunities, corruption, and climate change are the main drivers of migration.
The Democrat-allied CNN recently reported that Harris and her team are trying to avoid the crisis at the border because it is politically fraught and could affect her chances of becoming president in the future.
Amid a bipartisan push for her to visit the U.S. border, which experts and analysts cited even by CNN say is vital to know how to tackle the crisis, Harris continues to refuse.
U.S. Border Patrol encountered over 178,000 migrants in April alone, a nearly ten-fold increase from the same month last year.
Republicans and other critics in the U.S. have accused the Biden administration’s decision to undo Trump-era border restrictions and interior enforcement measures that they believe have given the perception to migrants that the border is open.
President Biden and Harris deny those claims, saying the border is closed to unessential travel despite allowing exceptions of Trump-era pandemic control protocols (Title 42) that allow for the deportation of all illegal migrants to unaccompanied children, some families, and single adults, primarily from outside the Americas.
Despite the Biden administration still allowing illegal immigrants into the U.S. amid the pandemic, Harris claimed during the press conference in Guatemala, “Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border. … We, as one of our priorities, will discourage illegal migration, and I believe if you come to our border you will be turned back.”
The Biden team insists the “root causes” as climate, poverty, crime, and corruption.
Under the Biden, the relationship between the elected governments of Guatemalan, El Salvador, and Honduras is strained, prompting VP Harris to focus U.S. aid on like-minded civil society groups, leaders, and NGOs.
Salvadoran President Bukele warned Biden not to fund groups associated with the opposition because it is “illegal.”