Saturday November 27th, 2021 9:19PM

Harris turns focus to Mexico on trip to address migration

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris told Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that the United States and Mexico are “embarking on a new era” during her first in-person meeting with the leader, as she seeks to foster greater cooperation with Mexico on immigration to the U.S.

Speaking at the start of their bilateral meeting at the Mexican national palace, Harris emphasized the “longstanding relationship” between the two nations and their “interdependence and interconnection.”

Joined by a number of her top foreign policy aides for the region, the two foreign leaders met for over an hour in an elegant conference room at the palace, seated across from each other under a grand crystal chandelier.

Just prior to the meeting, Harris and López Obrador watched as the Mexican foreign affairs secretary and the charge d'affaires of the U.S. embassy in Mexico signed a memorandum of understanding establishing greater cooperation between the two nations on development programs in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Harris was later slated to meet with female entrepreneurs and labor leaders in Mexico, before heading back to Washington Tuesday night.

The visit to Mexico capped off Harris' first foreign trip as vice president, a brief foray focused on dealing with the root causes of migration that brought her first to Guatemala on Monday. While in Guatemala, 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.

While her visit to Mexico didn't deliver as clear and concrete an agreement, Harris emphasized the importance of the relationship between the two nations.

“We have a partnership, a longstanding partnership. Other than Canada, we are the closest neighbors to each other,” Harris told reporters Monday night.

López Obrador remains a key but complicated ally in the Biden administration’s efforts to curb the spike in migration at the U.S. border.

While López 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 President Joe Biden for the increase in migration at the border. And he was chummy with his predecessor, President Donald Trump, despite Trump’s hardline policies toward 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.

Harris aides have said during her meeting with López Obrador, the two planned to 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 Zúñiga, 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.

The vice president received some criticism Monday from members of her own party when she delivered a direct message to those considering fleeing their homes for the U.S. “Do not come,” Harris said, emphasizing the danger of the trek.

Her comments echoed those made by past U.S. officials as they've tried to dissuade migrants from seeking to cross the border, as the U.S. faces unprecedented numbers of attempted border crossings. But she was criticized by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who called her comments “disappointing” and said that seeking asylum is a legal means of entry.

Asked later by reporters about Ocasio-Cortez's criticism, Harris declined to respond directly, saying only, "I’m really clear: we have to deal with the root causes and that is my hope. Period.”

Her meeting with Lopez Obrador comes just days after the country’s midterm elections, during which the president's party appeared poised to maintain its 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.

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 toward Biden’s approach to immigration than they are toward 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 are ignoring the issue because both have yet to visit the southern border. Harris told reporters 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.”

Regardless of the eventual outcome of her meetings Tuesday, Mexico will remain a key partner in enforcement efforts at the border.

Illegal 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.

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.


AP writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed reporting.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Business, AP Business - Economy
© Copyright 2021
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
EXPLAINER: How will insurers cover a new Alzheimer's drug?
Federal regulators have approved the first new drug for Alzheimer’s disease in nearly 20 years, leaving patients waiting to see how insurers will handle the pricey new treatment
1:17AM ( 15 minutes ago )
Harris turns focus to Mexico on trip to address migration
Vice President Kamala Harris is closing out her first foreign trip Tuesday as she visits Mexico and meets with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
1:15AM ( 17 minutes ago )
Virginia high court to hear challenges to Lee statue removal
The Supreme Court of Virginia is set to hear arguments in two lawsuits that challenge Gov. Ralph Northam’s plan to take down a 131-year-old statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E
1:08AM ( 23 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
'A lot of anxiety' for Democrats as Biden agenda stalls
Six months into the Democrats’ hold on Washington, the party’s progressive wing is growing increasingly restless
12:11AM ( 1 hour ago )
Down Under criminals tricked into using FBI-run message app
Authorities in Australia and New Zealand say they’ve dealt a huge blow to organized crime after hundreds of criminals were tricked into using a messaging app that was being secretly run by the FBI
12:06AM ( 1 hour ago )
Canadian police say Muslim family targeted by deadly attack
Police in London, Ontario, say a driver plowed a pickup truck into a family of five, killing four of them and seriously injuring the other in a deliberate attack that targeted the victims because they were Muslims
11:54PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Fed lawyers: Trump not liable for 'crude' remarks at accuser
Justice Department lawyers say Donald Trump cannot be held personally liable for “crude and disrespectful” remarks he made while president about a woman who accused him of rape
11:53PM ( 1 hour ago )
Train barrels into another in Pakistan, killing at least 51
An express train barreled into another that had derailed in Pakistan, killing at least 51 people
10:54PM ( 2 hours ago )
Oil pipeline foes protest Enbridge's Line 3 in Minnesota
Hundreds of protesters vowing to do whatever it takes to stop a Canadian-based company’s push to replace an aging pipeline blocked a pump station Monday in northern Minnesota
9:34PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online National News
The Latest: Hawaii's eviction moratorium extended 60 days
Hawaii's governor is extending for two more months an eviction moratorium that he implemented during the coronavirus pandemic, but says he doesn’t expect to keep it longer than that
10:27PM ( 3 hours ago )
Oregon lawmaker faces expulsion in assault on state Capitol
Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek wants to expel a Republican lawmaker who allowed violent protesters into the state Capitol in December
9:20PM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: Wash. state OKs free pot as vaccine incentive
Washington state says licensed marijuana stores can offer free joints to promote coronavirus vaccine clinics
7:43PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Apple previews new software for iPhone, other gadgets
Apple kicked off its second annual all-virtual developer conference with a keynote that outlined new updates to its software for iPhones and other devices
12:04AM ( 1 hour ago )
Peru's presidential runoff election too close to call
A rural teacher-turned-political novice and the daughter of an imprisoned former president have traded the lead in a tight race for Peru's presidency
11:43PM ( 1 hour ago )
Asian shares edge lower after mixed finish on Wall Street
Stocks have edged lower in Asia after a mixed finish on Wall Street
11:43PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
Stocks slip on Wall Street, pulling back from record highs
Stocks edged lower in afternoon trading Monday after briefly approaching the record highs they reached a month ago
2:55PM ( 10 hours ago )
Harris says leaders need to restore hope in Guatemala
Vice President Kamala Harris is emphasizing the need to restore hope for residents of struggling Central American nations to help address the increase in migration from the region
2:33PM ( 10 hours ago )
Daughter of imprisoned ex-president leads Peru's election
The daughter of an imprisoned former president is maintaining a razor thin advantage over her opponent in the race for Peru’s presidency
12:25PM ( 13 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
EXPLAINER: How will insurers cover a new Alzheimer's drug?
Federal regulators have approved the first new drug for Alzheimer’s disease in nearly 20 years, leaving patients waiting to see how insurers will handle the pricey new treatment
1:17AM ( 15 minutes ago )
Virginia high court to hear challenges to Lee statue removal
The Supreme Court of Virginia is set to hear arguments in two lawsuits that challenge Gov. Ralph Northam’s plan to take down a 131-year-old statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E
1:08AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Pipeline exec to face Congress as US recovers most of ransom
The chief executive of the massive fuel pipeline hit by ransomware last month is expected to detail his company’s response to the cyberattack and to explain his decision to authorize a multimillion-dollar payment when he testifies before Congress this week
12:42AM ( 50 minutes ago )
State media: Kim has plans to stabilize N. Korean economy
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presented economic plans to senior ruling party officials before an upcoming meeting  to review efforts to overcome hardships brought about by the pandemic
12:39AM ( 53 minutes ago )
Rejuvenated Paul leads Suns over Nuggets 122-105 in Game 1
Chris Paul and his rejuvenated right shoulder scored 21 points and dished 11 assists, Mikal Bridges added 23 points and the Phoenix Suns beat the Denver Nuggets 122-105 in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals
12:26AM ( 1 hour ago )