The Tuesday meeting will close out Harris’ first foreign trip, with President Biden’s administration hoping it will help in its efforts to curb the spike in migration from Central America and secure the southern border.
While Lopez Obrador committed in a previous virtual meeting with Harris that the U.S. can ‘count on us’ to help address the issue of irregular migration, the Mexican president has in the past blamed Biden for the increase in migration at the border.
And he was chummy with his predecessor, President Donald Trump, despite Trump’s hardline polcies towards migrants.
Early last month, he also accused the U.S. of violating Mexico’s sovereignty for giving money to non-governmental organizations that were critical of his government.
But Harris, in her role dealing with the root causes of increased migration from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, as well as Mexico, has sought to strengthen diplomatic relations with the Mexican president.
Vice President Kamala Harris has landed in Mexico for a crunch meeting with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who she has been couring for months. Pictured: Harris disembarks from Air Force Two as she arrives at Benito Juarez International airport in Mexico City, for her first international trip as Vice President to Guatemala and Mexico, in Mexico June 7
Harris – who was tasked by Biden to work with Central American countries to stem the flow of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border – was pictured disembarking from Air Force Two in Mexico City late on Monday.
As she stepped off the plane, she was met by Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard ahead of her meeting with Mexicos president on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in pictures from outside the U.S. consulate in the border city of Tijuana, protesters were seen demonstrating against Harris’ visit to Mexico, with some holding signs calling for ‘no intervention of the United States in Mexico’.
Harris has held multiple phone calls and a virtual bilateral meeting with Lopez Obrador, and Tuesday will provide the latest indication of whether her efforts will bear fruit for either nation.
‘We have a partnership, a longstanding partnership. Other than Canada, we are the closest neighbors to each other,’ Harris told reporters Monday night.
‘That is the basis of the conversation I will have with him – is with that spirit, that we have to be partners.’
The meeting follows Harris’ Monday visit to Guatemala, where she met with President Alejandro Giammattei.
To coincide with their meeting the Biden administration announced a number of new commitments to combat trafficking, smuggling, and corruption, as well as investments in economic development in the country.
Speaking there on Monday, Harris finally revealed that she does not plan to visit the southern border because it would just be a ‘grand gesture’ as opposed to a genuine trip – as she warned illegal migrants they are not welcome in the U.S.
Pictured: Vice President Kamala Harris is greeted by Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard as she steps off the plane upon arrival at Benito Juarez International airport in Mexico City. The Tuesday with Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador meeting will close out Harris’ first foreign trip, with President Biden’s administration hoping it will help in its efforts to curb the spike in migration and secure the southern border
But on Tuesday, her meeting with Lopez Obrador isn’t expected to deliver as many concrete commitments.
The two will witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding that will establish greater cooperation between the two nations on development programs in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Harris aides say they’ll discuss vaccine sharing, the economic and security relationship between the two nations, and dealing with the root causes of migration from other countries in the region.
Harris speaks frequently of the need to improve economic conditions for residents of the region, so they don’t feel compelled to make the trek to the U.S. border.
The memorandum of understanding, according to special envoy Ricardo Zuniga, who traveled with Harris on the trip, marks a new level of cooperation, and is important because the two nations have ‘some of the same issues’ when it comes to irregular migration.
‘It’s very important to show that the United States and Mexico are collaborating and trying to improve conditions on the ground among our neighbors, because of the importance that other countries in Central America have for both of us,’ he told reporters traveling with Harris.
Pictured: Migrants and pro-migrants advocates demonstrate at the US Consulate in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico on June 7, 2021. – Demonstrators asked US government to stop its ‘intervention’ in Mexico and a better treatment for migrants ahead of US Vice President Kamala Harris visit to Mexico City
Harris will spend the rest of the day meeting with female entrepreneurs and labor leaders in the nation.
The meeting comes just days after the country’s midterm elections, during which Lopez Obrador´s party appeared poised to maintain their majority in Mexico´s lower chamber of the congress, but fell short of a two-thirds majority as some voters boosted the struggling opposition, according to initial election results.
Harris is not expected to address the election results during her meeting with the president, but the bloody campaign – nearly three-dozen candidates or pre-candidates were killed as drug cartels sought to protect their interests – are certain to loom over their conversations.
The government´s inability to provide security in parts of the country is of interest to the U.S. in an immigration context, both for the people who are displaced by violence and the impact it has on a severely weakened economy trying to reemerge from the pandemic.
Still, while aides say corruption was a central focus of her meeting with Giammattei, it’s unclear whether she’ll raise the issue with Lopez Obrador.
But the increase in migration at the border has become one of the major challenges confronting Biden in the early months of his first term, with Republicans seizing on an issue they see as politically advantageous as polling suggests Americans are less favorable towards Biden´s approach to immigration than they are towards his policies on the economy and the COVID-19 pandemic.
They’ve tried to make Harris the face of that immigration policy, charging she and Biden with ignoring the issue because both have yet to visit the southern border.
Kamala says she WON’T visit the border because it would just be a ‘grand gesture’ at Guatemala press conference
Harris told reporters on Monday in Guatemala that she was focused on addressing the root causes of migration in a way that delivers ‘tangible’ results ‘as opposed to grand gestures.’
‘On the issues of Republicans’ political attacks or criticism or even concerns, the reason I am here in Guatemala as my first trip as vice president of the United States is because this is one of our highest priorities,’ Harris said during a question and answer portion of her press conference with the Guatemalan President.
‘I came here to be here on the ground, to speak with the leader of this nation around what we can do in a way that is significant, is tangible and has real results,’ she continued. ‘And I will continue to be focused on that kind of work as opposed to grand gestures.’
Vice President Kamala Harris and Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, pose for an official photograph, Monday, June 7, 2021, at the National Palace in Guatemala City. Harris told reporters on Monday in Guatemala that she was focused on addressing the root causes of migration in a way that delivers ‘tangible’ results ‘as opposed to grand gestures’
Harris said she ‘believes’ any migrants who attempt to enter the U.S. through non-legal channels will be turned away if they arrive at the border.
‘I want to emphasize that the goal of our work is to help Guatemalans find hope at home,’ Harris said after her bilateral meeting with Giammattei.
‘At the same time, I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come,’ she said, and repeated for emphasis: ‘Do not come.’
‘The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border,’ the vice president insisted. ‘There are legal methods by which migration can and should occur, but we, as one of our priorities, will discourage illegal migrations. And I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back.’
Harris was criticised from both sides of the aisle for her comments, with Republicans rebuking her for saying a visit to the border would be a ‘grand gesture’, while Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez describing Harris‘ remarks as ‘disappointing’.
Congressman Andy Biggs, Republican of Texas, didn’t buy Harris’s reasoning for not visiting the southern border.
Harris’ first international trip was met with protesters demanding she ‘mind your own business’
‘It is not a grand gesture for Vice President Harris to inspect the damage and inhumanity fueled by the Biden Administration at the southern border,’ Biggs said in a statement to DailyMail.com.
‘However, Kamala would rather turn a blind eye to the mounting chaos than reinforce Trump’s policies that would bring security and stability back to our border.’
Other Republicans also have been open about their criticism of Harris refusing to visit the border even after being named ‘border czar’ by President Joe Biden in March. They claim her avoiding the region is proof she is not committed to solving the problem.
Ocasio-Cortez accused the United States of having ‘set the house on fire’ when it comes to Latin America – but being unwilling to allow people to escape.
She then argued that the U.S. needed to emphasize the root causes of migration, rather than punishing those who seek to enter the country.
She reacted to a clip of Harris’ press conference by stating: ‘This is disappointing to see. ‘First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival.
‘Second, the US spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America. We can’t help set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for fleeing.’
The New York congresswoman added: ‘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, pictured on June 5, criticized Vice President Kamala Harris’ remarks in Guatemala. On Monday Harris told would-be migrants from the country that her message was: ‘Do not come’
Regardless of the eventual outcome of Harris’ meetings on Tuesday, Mexico will remain a key partner in enforcement efforts at the border.
llegal border crossings have increased steadily since April 2020, after Trump introduced pandemic-related powers to deny migrants the opportunity to seek asylum, but further accelerated under Biden, who quickly scrapped many of Trump’s hardline border policies – most notably the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program to make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for court dates in U.S. immigration court.
Shortly after taking office, Biden also exempted unaccompanied children from Title 42, named for a section of an obscure 1944 public health law that allows authorities to deny entry to prevent the spread of disease.
Mexico agreed to take back its own citizens under Title 42 authorities, as well as people from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
U.S. border authorities encountered nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children in March, the highest on record.
Overall, it had more than 170,000 encounters on the border in April, the highest level in more than 20 years though the numbers aren´t directly comparable because getting stopped under pandemic-related authorities carries no legal consequences, resulting in many repeat crossings.
Mexicans accounted for 36 percent of encounters with people who crossed illegally in April, the largest nationality according to the latest monthly data available from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Hondurans were second with 22 percent and Guatemalans were third with 17 percent.
In March, Lopez Obrador also blamed Biden for the increase in migration at the U.S. border, saying in a March press conference that the Biden administration had created ‘expectations’ that ‘there would be a better treatment of migrants.’
‘And this has caused Central American migrants, and also from our country, wanting to cross the border thinking that it is easier to do so,’ he said.
Mexico president upbeat despite election setback
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday his ruling coalition was on course to retain its control of the lower house, despite a setback in legislative elections he called ‘free and fair.’
Initial results indicated that Lopez Obrador’s Morena party lost the absolute majority it held in the lower house of Congress, complicating his promised ‘transformation’ of the country.
But he struck an upbeat tone, noting that together with its political partners, Morena was still projected to hold more than half the seats.
‘I’m very grateful because as a result of this election, the parties that are sympathetic to the transformation project that is under way will have a majority in the Chamber of Deputies,’ he told reporters.
The vote was seen as a referendum on Lopez Obrador’s more than two years in office overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic and cartel-related violence.
A quick initial vote count suggested Lopez Obrador’s Morena party alone was set to take between 190 and 203 of the 500 seats in the lower house, the National Electoral Institute said.
Pictured: Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during a news conference about the results of the mid-term election, at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico June 7, 2021
Dozens of politicians were murdered in the months leading up to the polls for the lower house, 15 of 32 state governors and thousands of local politicians.
On the eve of the elections, gunmen killed five people helping to organize voting in the southern state of Chiapas, while two human heads were left at polling stations in the border city of Tijuana on election day.
After the vote finished, four more people were shot dead in Chiapas in an apparent dispute between rival political camps competing for the position of local mayor, the authorities said.
Lopez Obrador was elected in 2018 for a term of six years, vowing to overhaul Mexico’s ‘neoliberal’ economic model, root out corruption and end profligacy by a privileged elite.
Mexican presidents are limited to a single term and Lopez Obrador has said that he will retire from politics when his ends.
So far his presidency has been largely dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has left more than a quarter of a million people dead in Mexico and devastated the economy.
Pictured: The national president of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), Mario Delgado (C), celebrates during a press conference in Mexico City, Mexico, June 6
Up to now the ruling coalition has had a two-thirds supermajority that enabled Lopez Obrador to amend the constitution without negotiating with his opponents.
Without it, he faces a tougher time pushing through his planned reforms, including greater state control of the energy sector.
‘It’s a defeat for Lopez Obrador – not overwhelming – but it does weaken him and his project because it requires constitutional reforms,’ said political analyst Jose Antonio Crespo.
‘It’s an important victory for the opposition because it was able to capitalize on the discontent, although the reality is that people voted against Lopez Obrador, not for his opponents,’ he told AFP.
A coalition of three opposition parties was set to increase its number of lower house seats to between 181 and 213, the National Electoral Institute said.
That would still be behind Morena and its allies, which were projected to control 265-298 seats.
Polling station officials open a ballot box to start the counting of the votes for federal deputies in Petaquillas, Mexico, on June 6, 2021
Even so, Lopez Obrador ‘is not going to be able to make the constitutional changes that someone would want with a view to concentrating power,’ said Pablo Majluf, analyst and critic of the president’s so-called ‘Fourth Transformation’ plan.
While the 67-year-old president himself continues to enjoy public approval ratings above 60 percent, Mexican voters often use midterm elections to cast protest votes against the ruling party.
‘They never had a plan and they still don’t,’ said Claudia Cervantes, a hospital worker in the capital, where experts said middle class voters in particular appeared to have punished Morena.
But some other voters such as Tania Calderon were willing to give the president’s party more time.
‘Without the pandemic, the government would have done better,’ the 37-year-old said.
Lopez Obrador owes much of his popularity to his social welfare programs aimed at helping the elderly and disadvantaged Mexicans.
He said that the ruling coalition would still have enough seats to ensure a sufficient budget ‘for the most needy, for the poor.’
Reporting by AFP