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Vice President Harris is ramping up her engagement on immigration-related duties, with multiple talks planned for the coming days and a trip to Central America in the works, but still has no scheduled time at the US southern border as the crisis there shows no signs of slowing down.
Harris is hosting a roundtable Thursday morning of “foundation leaders on the Northern Triangle,” the White House said.
The administration did not elaborate on the plans for Thursday’s gathering, but the veep described her role as “bringing together” cabinet secretaries and other “foundation leaders from across our country” to discuss the immigration issue.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Harris discussed the plans briefly, saying, “When we’re looking at my focus, which is a diplomatic focus on the Northern Triangle, it is about bringing together — as I did now, I think, a couple of weeks ago — the members of the Cabinet. And the progress there is that Commerce, for example, is going to host a virtual trade mission,” she said.
“The Department of Agriculture, under the leadership of Secretary Vilsack, is increasing its focus on the work that needs to happen to support the agricultural efforts of that region that have been decimated because of extreme climate, because of poverty. But it’s evidencing itself in a number of ways, including extreme food insecurity in that region. We’re bringing together USAID, which is increasing its work around its program that is focused on disaster relief. So this is some of the work that’s happening.”
“This week, I’m bringing together foundation leaders from across our country to really encourage them to do more in terms of the civil society piece of this, which will be about both growing the work that they’ve already done historically, but also engaging civil society in the region — in the Northern Triangle,” she continued.
On Monday, Harris will meet virtually with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, her chief spokeswoman and senior adviser Symone Sanders confirmed Wednesday evening.
The two will discuss “working together to address immediate relief needs of the Guatemalan people as well as deepening cooperation on migration,” Sanders said.
The next day, Harris will take part in a virtual roundtable hosted by the US Embassy in Guatemala City with “representatives from Guatemalan community based organizations.”
The meeting “will underscore the importance of placing the Guatemalan people at the center of solutions to root causes of migration.”
Harris, who confirmed last week that she was planning a trip to the region, but not the US border itself, is also narrowing down a date to visit, the White House said Wednesday.
While exact dates have not yet been made available, the vice president will travel to the Northern Triangle countries in the month of June.
The Biden administration’s undoing of former President Donald Trump’s border policies has prompted a flood of Central American and Mexican illegal migrants at the US border, including thousands of unescorted children.
Central Americans looking for refuge from the Northern Triangle countries have taken these policy moves, as well as the overwhelmingly more welcoming tone from Democrats, as a sign that President Biden is inviting them to cross the border.
Insisting that the border was not facing a crisis, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in early March that the problems the agency faced should be blamed on the previous administration.
The data, however, overwhelmingly shows that migrants were flooding the border because they believed Biden would welcome them with open arms.
Late last month, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador blamed the new president for the crisis, arguing that the “expectations” he set left migrants with the perception that they would be let into the US.
As the crisis heated up, Biden tapped his vice president to address the diplomatic measures related to its “root causes.”
Speaking to reporters last week while hosting a roundtable of experts on the Northern Triangle countries, Harris explained why she planned to travel to those countries but not to the US border.
“The president has asked [Homeland Security] Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas to address what is going on at the border, and he has been working very hard at that and is showing some progress,” the vice president replied.
“I have been asked to lead the issue of dealing with root causes in the Northern Triangle, similar to what then-Vice President [Joe Biden] did many years ago.”
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