Guatemala’s president is blaming the Biden administration’s “confusing” messages for creating the crisis at the US border — the second leader to make that claim after Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador issued similar remarks in March.
“I believe that in the first few weeks of the Biden administration, messages were confusing. They were compassionate messages that were understood by people in our country, especially the coyotes, to tell families we’ll take the children,” President Alejandro Giammatei said Tuesday during an interview on MSNBC.
“And children can go, and once children are there they will call their parents,” he continued.
He said the messages were confusing “not because of the way they were communicated but because of the way they were translated here.”
Giammetei said that when unaccompanied minors begin to make the trek to the US it creates a “matter of concern because as soon as they cross the border between Mexico and the US, they fall into the hands of cartels and prostitution networks, and so on.”
The Guatemalan president said that he has seen coyotes carrying out “horrible acts” like dropping children from atop high walls, saying “this is not humane behavior.”
He also faulted the US and other countries for not responding adequately to the surge of migrants.
“What I can say is that no government, no matter how large or strong, can have that gigantic apparatus that would be required to address 30 or 40,000 people in detention centers and have all of them in a status where they are claiming refuge. As we explained, many of these issues can be corrected, but we have to work together,” he said.
The White House on Tuesday worked out a deal with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to bolster their police and military presence to help stem the flow of migrants across their borders to the US.
According to numbers compiled by US Customs and Border Protection, federal agents encountered 18,890 unaccompanied children from Central America in March – doubling February’s 9,297.
Late last month, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also blamed the new administration for the crisis, arguing that the “expectations” Biden set left migrants with the perception that they would be let into the US.
Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Mexico and Guatemala in her capacity as border czar in order to identify “root causes” of the crisis, she revealed Wednesday.
Harris made the announcement while speaking to reporters from the White House ahead of a virtual roundtable she was hosting with experts on the Northern Triangle countries — El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — after being asked if she planned to visit the border.
“The president has asked [Homeland Security] Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas to address what is going on at the border, and he has been working very hard at that and is showing some progress,” the vice president replied, explaining why she would not be traveling to the region.
“I have been asked to lead the issue of dealing with root causes in the Northern Triangle, similar to what then-Vice President [Joe Biden] did many years ago,” she continued, going on to note that she had spoken with the presidents of Mexico and Guatemala before stopping herself to note, “Well, I’m probably saying too much.”
Harris then decided to offer the big reveal, saying, “We have plans in the works to go to Guatemala as soon as possible.”