Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei unloaded on the Biden administration’s border policies for essentially enabling human trafficking even as Vice President Kamala Harris’ staff insisted the crisis has been brought on by other factors.
Ahead of Harris’ arrival in Guatemala, Giammattei spoke with CBS News and criticized the administration’s “family reunification” policies, noting how the changes made by President Joe Biden since taking office – and effectively rolling back his predecessor’s immigration restrictions- have triggered a surge in human trafficking and smuggling. Meanwhile, Harris spokesperson Symone Sanders on Sunday claimed that the “main drivers” for the increasing surge of illegal immigrants over the southern border are actually climate change and the economy.
“Joe Biden is responsible for this border crisis,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted Monday, along with a video clip of Giammattei’s interview. “Even the President of Guatemala agrees.”
“The message changed to ‘we’re going to reunite families and we’re going to reunite children. The very next day the coyotes were here organizing groups of children to take them to the United States,” Giammattei told CBS News. As Harris arrived in Guatemala on Sunday, Sanders told reporters that there are “three key focuses we will lay out: economic development, climate, and food insecurity and women and young people.”
Corruption is also being blamed for the migration surge which is an accusation that allegedly takes aim at the Guatemalan government. “We see corruption as one of the most important root causes to be dealt with,” special envoy Richard Zuniga stated. In May, a number of Central American leaders took offense to the Biden administration’s anti-corruption strategy, which included the release of a list labeling 17 regional politicians as corrupt. More than 178,000 illegal aliens crossed the border in April. That continued an explosive trend from February and March.
Many critics are blaming the Biden administration itself for nixing Trump-era border restrictions and law enforcement policies. The moves have seemingly sent a signal to those who want to cross over illegally that the border is wide open. The administration contends the border is closed, but the numbers and evidence appear to state otherwise. That has not stopped Biden and his fellow Democrats from continuing to posit that the real culprits are climate change, crime, poverty, and corruption in Central America.
Harris has also promoted these same “root causes” since being tapped by Biden to handle diplomatic outreach over illegal immigration: “I’m thinking of corruption, violence, and poverty, the lack of economic opportunity, the lack of climate adaptation and climate resilience, the lack of good governance,” she claimed in May.
“We are looking at extensive storm damage because of extreme climate, we’re looking at drought in an area in a region where agriculture is one of the most traditionally important basis for their economy, we’re looking at what’s happening in terms of food scarcity as a result of that and in fact, incredible food insecurity, which we used to call hunger food insecurity,” she said back in April. Harris was reportedly set to talk to Giammattei about strengthening the rule of law, bilateral law enforcement cooperation, economic opportunities, and other issues. Following a meeting in Guatemala with community leaders and business owners, she will travel to Mexico.
Giammattei told CBS News that he and Harris “are not on the same side of the coin” concerning immigration. He contends that he witnessed a welcoming message to illegal immigrants after former President Trump left office.
“We asked the United States government to send more of a clear message to prevent more people from leaving,” he noted. That request evidently fell on deaf ears.
Harris has yet to visit the border and that lack of involvement is definitely being noticed by leaders in Central America. Her office contends that Harris’ focus has always been on the “root causes” of migration, not on the conditions in U.S. border towns.