Vice President Kamala Harris left Washington Sunday aboard on an official tour to Guatemala and Mexico to deal with the crisis involving migrants going through those countries as well as through Honduras and El Salvador on their way to an illegal entry into the United States.
Following a not quite promising start to her journey, the Vice President will try to reach agreements with local authorities for more cooperation on border security and economic development so that people stay in their home countries.
The Air Force 2 plane was forced to return to Washington after 30 minutes by what was described as a technical issue. She boarded another plane and left about an hour and a half later. Any aircraft with the Vice President on board is automatically relabelled Air Force 2.
Harris is scheduled to meet with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday and Mexico's Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Tuesday. She is also to hold talks with community leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs in Guatemala, and while in Mexico, she is participating in a conversation with female entrepreneurs and holding a roundtable with labour workers.
Ahead of her visits to the two countries, she has emphasized the need for increased employment opportunities and better living conditions. She announced $310 million in US aid to support refugees and deal with food shortages. She also recently won commitments from US companies and organizations to invest in Central American countries to promote economic opportunity and job training.
The United States has also pledged a combined 1.5 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to Guatemala and Mexico.
Harris’s diplomatic outreach has touched off political mockery on the part of some opposition Republican politicians, who foresee Harris' mission will yield no results. The US has sent billions of dollars to Central American countries to develop conditions that would persuade would-be migrants to stay at home but that policy seems to have had little success, as crime and corruption are also behind the reasons why people choose to leave their land.
Former President Donald Trump adopted get-tough policies at the border to turn back migrants. Biden also is turning back migrants but has allowed unaccompanied children to enter the U.S., unlike Trump. The policy shift combined with a predictable rise in spring migration and the easing of pandemic restrictions at the border, contributed to the arrival of thousands of migrants in recent months, increasing pressure on the Biden administration to resolve the issue.
We have to give people a sense of hope, a sense of hope that help is on the way, a sense of hope that if they stay, things will get better, Harris said after Biden named her to lead diplomatic efforts in Latin America.