Harris responds to questions about immigration during joint press conference with Guatemala President
Vice President Kamala Harris responded to a reporter’s question on immigration in the United States during a joint press conference with Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday.
– Madame Vice President, good to see you. I know corruption has been a big focus of your work on this issue in recent months. You talked a little bit about it. I’m curious more specifically, do you consider the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, or any other in this region to be corrupt? And you just told people in this region, quote, do not come. Do not come. Would it be fair to perceive the Biden administration’s work on stemming illegal immigration to be a failure, if because they’re so desperate they still keeping coming?
And I’m curious, as you stand here in this room– I’ll throw one more at you– if you could reflect on the history that you’re making today. You’re the first American female vice president to represent the country outside the country in a region of the world where there aren’t many senior female leaders.
KAMALA HARRIS: Thank you, Ed. So on the issue of corruption, the conversation that I had with President Giammattei today was very frank and very candid. And I think this is a quality that he and I appreciate in each other. We don’t have time for glossing over concerns that we have.
And so we did have a very frank conversation about the importance of an independent judiciary. We had a conversation about the importance of a strong civil society. I expressed concerns about those issues, including what is the potential here for tax reform, something like tax reform, which is very much connected with a lot of the concerns that we have. And so we had a candid conversation as it relates to those concerns.
And I do believe that with the work that we are doing, some of it which is new– there have been many attempts at collaboration between the United States and this region of the world over many years, as you know. Some have worked. Some have not. There are aspects of what we are doing now that are new, and also are based on this new era– again, where there’s, I think, a greater appreciation for the interdependence and the interconnection.
And so we are creating this task force to address corruption. We are working on a task force that is about human smuggling. We are doing the work of requiring certain– certain progress be made if we are going to attract US investment, private investment in this region. And that is also a new approach, a relatively new approach, which is to bring together the private sector, understanding that the United States government cannot alone do the kind of work that we believe we have collectively the capacity to do. So we have good reason to believe that we can have an impact.
And in addition, there was a question about what’s happening in terms of immigration as a general matter. Ale Mayorkas, who of course is the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, is going to be working on, through CBP, a relationship with Guatemalan border authorities on what we have named the Mobile Tactical Interdiction Unit– again, focused on what needs to happen to put law enforcement resources, as appropriate, onto the issue of what is going on in terms of really abusive and criminal behaviors among people who are predatory in nature and are preying on vulnerable people.
Your final point– I’m honored to represent my country here in Guatemala. I am– I am honored to be here in a nation that has a history that goes back thousands of years. As I was walking through this building and appreciating the Mayan art that adorns the walls, knowing of the work that women and girls are doing, and have yet the capacity to do in Guatemala– and to the extent that I can have any impact based on my gender and the fact that I am the first, I welcome that.
I welcome showing anyone, whatever your race or gender, that you may be the first to do anything, make sure you’re not the last. And in that way, let’s have a path where we create an opportunity for others to become the first in their family or their community to do those things that perhaps others didn’t think they were capable of but God has given them that capacity to achieve. And with a little help, they will.