Vice President Kamala Harris met with Guatemala’s president on Monday, beginning her first overseas trip since taking office. Harris will focus on identifying long-term solutions to undocumented migration from Latin America. The decades-long problem has gotten worse recently. President Biden tasked Harris with spearheading the White House’s response.
Undocumented migration is when people cross international borders without permission. The US encountered about 6,000 undocumented migrants per day along its border with Mexico in April. That’s the highest number in two decades. A record number of unaccompanied children crossed the border this spring.
Today, Harris will meet with Mexico’s president. Her trip reflects the Biden administration’s belief that the key to reducing migration is to help Central American countries address the phenomenon’s root causes. That’s a change from the Trump administration. It focused on building a wall and stopping migrants from entering the US. Harris will focus on climate change, food insecurity, and women’s rights. The idea is that migrants won’t flee their homelands if things are better there.
The use of US aid to improve conditions abroad and prevent migration has an inconsistent track record at best. Biden spearheaded similar initiatives when he was vice president, overseeing billions in aid, and migration has only grown more intense.
Guatemala’s president blamed the Biden administration for not sending a clear message to prevent people from heading to the US. But, on Monday, Harris told migrants: “Do not come, do not come.”