Harris Warns Guatemalans ‘Do Not Come to U.S.’ During First Foreign Trip

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    Vice President Kamala Harris warned Central Americans not to migrate to the U.S. and said the Biden administration would intensify efforts to combat corruption in the region, after meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday.

    “Do not come. Do not come,” Harris said at a news conference in Guatemala City. “If you come to our border, you will be turned back.”

    Harris’s trip is part of the administration’s effort to address the so-called root causes of migration from Central America, after more than 200,000 attempts by migrants from the region to enter the U.S. since the start of the year. President Joe Biden directed Harris to lead the effort to stem the surge in migration.

    Harris and Giammattei had a “very frank and very candid” conversation that included “the importance of anti-corruption and the importance of an independent judiciary,” she said. In April, the country’s legislature — controlled by Giammattei’s party — refused to seat an anti-corruption judge, Gloria Porras, a move criticized by U.S. officials.

    Giammattei said at the news conference that there are “zero” allegations of corruption against him.

    The Justice Department on Monday announced new steps to combat human trafficking to coincide with Harris’s visit, including a joint U.S. law enforcement task force and additional assistance to Central American governments to address the problem in their own countries. The department is also stepping up its efforts on investigations, prosecutions and asset recoveries of corruption in the Northern Triangle countries and heading a new joint task force with the Treasury and State Departments to investigate and prosecute cases with links to the U.S.

    “Corruption does not know borders,” Harris said. “We have to follow the money and we have to stop it.”

    The U.S. will also provide $40 million to fund an initiative to provide economic opportunity for and curb gender-based violence against young women, according to the White House. An additional $48 million will go toward entrepreneurship, housing, agribusiness and micro-lending programs.

    The new announcements follow $310 million in humanitarian aid for Central America that Harris unveiled in April. Biden has pushed for a $4 billion aid program for the region over the next four years.

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    Guatemala, a Central American country south of Mexico, is home to volcanoes, rainforests and ancient Mayan sites. The capital is Guatemala City. Antigua, west of the capital, contains preserved Spanish colonial buildings. Lake Atitlán, formed in a massive volcanic crater, is surrounded by coffee fields and villages.

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