Vice President Kamala Harris met with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday, after deflecting criticism from Republicans and one of her own party’s most prominent liberals for her work trying to curb migration from Central America to the U.S.
Harris and the Mexican leader, known as AMLO, observed in Mexico City as officials from their respective governments signed an agreement to cooperate on development programs aimed at improving economic conditions in Central America.
“The United States and Mexico have a longstanding relationship, based on family” and “shared borders, based on a shared history,” she said in the meeting. “I strongly believe that we are embarking on a new era.”
Harris is on the second full day of a trip to the region as part of her assignment from President Joe Biden to lead a U.S. government effort to curb a historic increase in migration from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Harris earlier Tuesday defended her approach, saying in an NBC News interview that there is “not going to be a quick fix” for the flow of people to the U.S. southern border.
She rebuffed GOP criticism that she hasn’t yet visited the border. “And I haven’t been to Europe,” she said in the interview. “And I mean, I don’t understand the point that you’re making. I’m not discounting the importance of the border.”
It would be helpful if the US would finally acknowledge its contributions to destabilization and regime change in the region.
Doing so can help us change US foreign policy, trade policy, climate policy, & carceral border policy to address causes of mass displacement & migration.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 7, 2021
Underscoring the political challenge she faces, Harris also came under fire from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a prominent Democrat from New York, and human-rights groups that expressed disappointment at her warning to migrants not to make the journey to the U.S.
The U.S. vice president on Monday visited Guatemala, where she met with President Alejandro Giammattei and announced several new initiatives to crack down on human trafficking and corruption as well as addressing poverty and violence which U.S. officials blame for the migration spike.
During a news conference Monday, she told would-be migrants: “Do not come,” warning that “if you come to our border, you will be turned back.”
Biden and other administration officials have previously made similar remarks. They have sometimes softened their warnings with a time element — “now” — suggesting that migrants might be welcome in the future.
The Mexican government limited press access to Harris’s meeting with AMLO, restricting coverage to five U.S. journalists and allowing them to observe for about three minutes. AMLO’s party lost its supermajority in the lower house of Mexico’s legislature in midterm elections on Sunday.