GUATEMALA CITY — During her first international trip as Vice President, Kamala Harris talked about the need for leaders in Central America to restore hope for residents, as a way to slow the increasing numbers of migrants coming to the U.S.'s southern border.
Speaking at the start of bilateral meetings with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei in Guatemala City, Harris said people don't want to leave their homeland, where they were born and grew up, but are forced to because of living conditions.
She said it was up to leaders to act to improve the situation for Guatemalans, to give them hope.
"The power of hope, the ability that each of our governments has to give people a sense that help is on the way," Harris said.
"To let them know that they are seen, that they are heard, that we see their capacity, but we also understand their challenges and their need for support and the resources that any human being needs to be able to survive much less thrive."
Harris talked about financial partnerships with Guatemala and the U.S. setting up an anti-corruption task force in the region.
She also had a clear message for those considering making the long and dangerous trek north to the United States.
"Do not come. Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border. There are legal methods by which migration can and should occur," Harris said.
The Biden administration is grappling with a two-decade record-high number of migrants coming to the southern U.S. border. Nearly half of the migrants encountered at the border between the U.S. and Mexico are originally from Guatemala, El Salvador or Honduras, sometimes referred to as the Northern Triangle countries.
The vice president has been spearheading the administration's efforts to fight the root causes of the increase in migration.
During the visit, Harris is also planning to address vaccine sharing and other issues.