Vice President Kamala Harris shared a call with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei Tuesday to discuss immigration amid a surging crisis and despite declining to visit the U.S.-Mexico border herself since taking office.
The call covered aid efforts meant to decrease migration by building up the economies of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, as well as was to collaborate on a range of issues and cracking down on crime.
Harris is leading the White House’s diplomatic effort to address illegal immigration, and she thanked Giammattei for securing Guatemala’s southern border amid a surge of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico line, her office said in a statement.
Mexican and Guatemalan forces teamed up to halt migrants trying to travel north from Honduras toward the U.S., dispersing them before they crossed the border.
Migrant caravans have been shrinking in size amid the crackdown, and those that do set out have often been broken up by authorities – including in January when Guatemalan security forces dispersed a large procession with tear gas and riot gear.
The Biden administration has come under heavy criticism for the surge in numbers – which it has refused to call a crisis – and the conditions at the facilities. Critics have linked the overwhelming numbers to Biden moves to reverse Trump-era policies like the Migrant Protection Protocols, which kept migrants in Mexico for their claims.
The White House has described the situation as “a challenge,” with migrant detention centers packed well above capacity and new arrivals still coming.
Immigration authorities allowed reporters into an overcrowded Texas detention center for the first time Tuesday, where more than three quarters of the population were unaccompanied minors. The Donna facility has a normal capacity of 1,000 – decreased to 250 during the coronavirus pandemic. There were 4,100 people being held there.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw and the Associated Press contributed to this report.