The Biden administration has agreed to train members of a Guatemalan task force so it can protect its borders from a migrant surge — as part of what Vice President Kamala Harris is describing as a “comprehensive approach” to the crisis from countries south of the border.
Harris on Tuesday spoke to Guatemalan community leaders in a virtual meeting, a day after she met virtually with the Guatemalan president.
“The word diplomacy generally suggests a relationship between government leaders, but I believe it has to be broader than that,” she said. “It has to be more than that, that’s why we are building a comprehensive strategy that includes business leaders, foundation leaders and community leaders like you.”
As part of an announcement on Monday, the White House said Guatemala had agreed to increase the number of border security personnel at its borders, and the U.S. will provide law enforcement to train and advise Guatemalan border security and law enforcement — as part of a broader collaboration.
“On border security, what was discussed was the establishment of a joint task force for border protection,” said Pedro Brolo, Guatemala’s foreign minister on Monday. “The U.S. government offered training.”
The U.S. will send 16 employees of the Department of Homeland Security to aid in the effort, the Associated Press reported, as well as helping Guatemala to build shelters for returned migrants.
The roundtable and the meeting come as part of Harris’ diplomatic effort to solve the migrant crisis that has overwhelmed the border and dealt a significant early blow to the Biden administration. More than 172,000 migrants were encountered in March, including a record number of migrant children.
While the Biden administration has blamed “root causes” like poverty and climate in Northern Triangle countries, as well as Trump administration policies, critics have blamed Biden’s rolling back of key Trump policies like the Migrant Protection Protocols for encouraging the surge.
Harris has faced criticism for an alleged lack of action over the crisis. She is planning a virtual meeting with the Mexican president next month ahead of a visit in-person to Guatemala in June.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.