On Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Guatemala City, Guatemala, to meet with President Alejandro Giammattei and community leaders. She came with a stark warning to would-be migrants: “Do not come. Do not come.”

She emphasized: “If you come to our border, you will be turned back.” 

The task that President Joe Biden entrusted her with was clear: stem the deepening crisis on the southern border. In April alone, 178,000 migrants arrived at the border. U.S. officials there say that the number of migrants is the highest one-month total in a span of more than two decades. Forty percent of those migrants are from the Northern Triangle, which consists of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Already in March, prior to that highest surge of migrants crossing the border, members of the Domestic Policy Council alerted Biden that the percentage of children, many of whom have been unescorted, was about to reach a record high, an increase of 45%. This data comes from the Department of Homeland Security.

In an interview with CBS that aired on Sunday, Giammetti expressed concern with the Biden administration’s messaging.

He accused Biden and Harris of sending an unclear and ambivalent message. First, he said, the administration claimed they wanted to “reunite families” and to “reunite children” and now they seem to be adamantly against migrants leaving their countries.

“We asked the United States government to send more of a clear message to prevent more people from leaving,” he said.

Biden’s undoing of former President Donald Trump’s border policies might be one reason for the spike in migration. The migrants have received the message that the U.S. will welcome them.

Harris’s agenda has more so become about “working with” Guatemala to tackle the root causes of the border crisis. That includes tackling drug trafficking and smuggling, breaking down the sophisticated criminal network that has filled many communities with violence and discrimination, helping people out of poverty, addressing global warming, which has left the country with many hurricane disasters, and assisting Guatemala against its fight with COVID-19.

In a speech that involved words like “hope” and “trust,” Harris told Guatemalan officials that the U.S. is there for them. The Biden administration, she said, would send 500,000 coronavirus vaccines to Guatemala and lend them $26 million to fight the pandemic. The way that aid will be administered, though, is yet unknown.

She also insisted that the U.S. will help Guatemala tackle economic problems by looking to invest in Guatemala’s agriculture, affordable housing, entrepreneurship, and education, especially for girls and women.

“The President and Vice President have been clear in dissuading people from making the dangerous and treacherous journey to the U.S./Mexico border. We encourage those who do want to come to the U.S. to do so legally and seek legal immigration options in their home countries,” said Senior Advisor Symone Sanders. “The Vice President is committed to addressing the root causes of migration, which also addresses why migrants are coming to our border.”

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