By Jasmine Wright, CNN
Kamala Harris will try to deepen the U.S.’s “strategic partnership and bilateral relationship” with Guatemala and Mexico on her first trip abroad as vice president, according to her staff members.
Harris will visit the region next week as part of his leading role in diplomatic efforts to curb the flow of migrants from Central America and will focus on economic development, climate and food insecurity, and women and youth, according to his staff. The trip underscores the administration’s greater focus on Central America and the region’s migration, especially as the record number of unaccompanied minors crosses the U.S.-Mexico border and officials are pushing back some restrictions on immigration from the United States. it was Trump.
“The goal of the vice president’s trip is to deepen our strategic partnership and our bilateral relationship with the Guatemalan and Mexican governments to advance a comprehensive strategy to address the causes of migration,” said Symone Sanders, lead spokeswoman. and Harris ’senior advisor, on a call with reporters Tuesday night.
“We will also hire community leaders, workers, young innovators and entrepreneurs and others on ways to provide economic security, address the basic factors of migration and give people hope for a better life at home,” Sanders added. .
President Joe Biden had tasked Harris with politically tense work in March, and an official said he was “really recovering” from where he left Biden, after then-President Barack Obama was tasked with directing diplomatic efforts in Guatemala, Honduras. and El Salvador, in its last term, began to arrive in the United States a wave of unaccompanied minors from these countries.
As previously reported by CNN, Republican critics and the media have portrayed Harris ’new immigration role as a frontier assignment, potentially opening it up to criticism for handling the seemingly intractable problem. His performance is key to his future political career, which could include a presidential candidacy as well as a special concern at this time as he prepares to travel abroad: his first official foray into face-to-face talks. in the country. on the problems pushing Central American migrants to the US.
The vice president and her staff have made it clear that they want to focus closely on diplomatic efforts in Mexico and the countries of the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, where they believe they are more likely to achieve tangible results to address the root causes. of migration, such as economic despair, according to two White House officials familiar with the dynamics.
The vice president will land in Guatemala on Sunday and will have a full day of events in the country the next day, including a face-to-face bilateral meeting with President Alejandro Giammattei. Harris will fly to Mexico that night.
He will hold a bilateral meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, as well as other events on Tuesday, before returning to the U.S. on the same day.
The vice president will meet with Guatemalan community leaders, innovators and business people, as well as greet and thank U.S. embassy staff for Mazin Alfaqih, special adviser to the vice president of the Northern Triangle.
In Mexico, Harris will engage in a conversation with women entrepreneurs, hold a roundtable with workers, and greet staff from the U.S. mission in Mexico, according to Hillary Quam, special adviser to the vice president of the Western Hemisphere.
Although it will be his first meeting in the country and in person with leaders from both countries, Harris held bilateral virtual meetings with both leaders earlier this year. They came to a steady stream of highly produced events that showed Harris meeting with government officials and private sector companies and seeking input from experts and civil society leaders on how best to help the region.
“The vice president’s strategy is based on catalyzing efforts between the U.S. government, regional governments,” Sanders said, “as well as the private and philanthropic sectors and international partners.”
Last month, Harris announced that he had secured commitments from 12 companies and private organizations to invest in the northern triangle, with the aim of strengthening his work.
At next week’s bilateral meeting, Harris will discuss with Giammattei “ways to increase economic opportunities in Guatemala, strengthen the rule of law, and deepen bilateral cooperation to enforce the law,” Alfaqih told reporters. Already in their virtual bilateral, the two sides agreed to increase the number of border security personnel, among other agreements. The U.S. will also increase the number of its own security forces on the ground to provide training, Alfaqih said.
Asked whether Harris will address asylum capacity in the region, White House officials said they hope the first migrant resource center, the creation of which was agreed at the virtual bilateral meeting, will open the trip from next week.
At the vice president’s meeting with the president of Mexico, Harris will try to build on previous agreements between the two countries to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and work to bolster economic opportunities in the region by establishing “other areas of collusion.” collaboration, ”officials said.
Sanders would not say whether Covid-19 vaccines would be a topic of discussion in both countries during the visit, only that they would discuss “Covid cooperation.”
In May, Harris met with the Hispanic Caucus of Congress to brief members on the administration’s plans. CNN previously reported that Democratic Representative Norma Torres of California said Harris had confirmed to the group that the northern triangle would be part of the administration’s 80 million doses of vaccine.
Sanders would not say on Tuesday whether there will be talks in Mexico on Title 42, the public health authority established under the Trump administration in early 2020 that allows border officials to expel migrants found on the U.S.-Mexico border in cause of the pandemic. restrictions on non-essential travel or temporary protection status for Guatemalans.
The vice president has yet to call on the leaders of El Salvador and Honduras, as they both have underlying issues that have haunted U.S. efforts in the region for years and their staff is finding the best way to participate. These backward conversations show only one aspect of the challenges of this task.
“We need to give people a certain sense of hope that if they stay, that help is on the way,” Harris told CNN’s Dana Bash in April. “It will not be resolved overnight; it is a complex subject. If that were easy, it would have been handled years ago. ”
CNN’s Arlette Saenz, Priscilla Alvarez and Natasha Bertrand contributed to this story.