United States Vice President Kamala Harris offered an optimistic outlook for improved cooperation with Guatemala on addressing the spike in migration to the U.S. after her meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday. She also delivered a direct warning to migrants considering making the trek: “Do not come. Do not come.”
Her comments, during a press conference after she met privately with Giammattei, underscored the challenge that remains even as Harris engages in substantive talks with the Guatemalan and Mexican presidents during a three-day visit to the region this week, her first foreign trip as vice president.
“I want to emphasize that the goal of our work is to help Guatemalans find hope at home,” Harris said. “At the same time, I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come, do not come.”
But some Democrats criticized the vice president Monday when she delivered a direct message to those considering leaving their homes and making the often-dangerous trek to the U.S. border: “Do not come.”
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York called her comments “disappointing” and noted that it is legal to seek asylum.
Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, declined to respond directly to the criticism when reporters asked, saying only: “I’m really clear: we have to deal with the root causes and that is my hope. Period.”
However, White House press secretary Jen Psaki tried to clarify Harris’s statement, saying that she was really trying to say that “we need more time to get the work done to ensure that asylum processing is where it needs to be.”
Her comments echoed those made by past U.S. officials as they’ve tried to dissuade migrants from seeking to cross the border, as the U.S. faces unprecedented numbers of attempted border crossings.
But the criticism from both Republicans and Democrats underscored the politically fraught nature of the assignment, and the difficulty Kamala Harris faces in finding success with an intractable challenge that has only grown in recent months.