Kamala Harris finally revealed Monday that she does not plan to visit the southern border because it would just be a 'grand gesture' as opposed to a genuine trip as she warned illegal migrants they are not welcome in the U.S.
During a press conference in Guatemala, more than 2,000 miles away from the Rio Grande, she vowed to take on corruption and insisted climate change was one of the driving forces behind people fleeing their homes and heading North.
'On the issues of Republicans' political attacks or criticism or even concerns, the reason I am here in Guatemala as my first trip as vice president of the United States is because this is one of our highest priorities,' Harris said during a question and answer portion of her press conference with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei.
'I came here to be here on the ground, to speak with the leader of this nation around what we can do in a way that is significant, is tangible and has real results,' she continued.
'And I will continue to be focused on that kind of work as opposed to grand gestures.'
Congressman Andy Biggs, Republican of Texas, didn't buy Harris's reasoning for not visiting the southern border.
'It is not a grand gesture for Vice President Harris to inspect the damage and inhumanity fueled by the Biden Administration at the southern border,' Biggs said in a statement to DailyMail.com. 'However, Kamala would rather turn a blind eye to the mounting chaos than reinforce Trump's policies that would bring security and stability back to our border.'
Other Republicans also have been open about their criticism of Harris refusing to visit the border even after being named 'border czar' by President Joe Biden in March. They claim her avoiding the region is proof she is not committed to solving the problem.
Harris said she 'believes' any migrants who attempt to enter the U.S. through non-legal channels will be turned away if they arrive at the border.
'I want to emphasize that the goal of our work is to help Guatemalans find hope at home,' Harris said after her bilateral meeting with Giammattei.
'At the same time, I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come,' she said, and repeated for emphasis: 'Do not come.'
'The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border,' the vice president insisted. 'There are legal methods by which migration can and should occur, but we, as one of our priorities, will discourage illegal migrations. And I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back.'
Republicans were not happy with Harris calling a trip to the border a 'grand gesture.'
'Traveling to our Southern Border is not a grand gesture; it is her responsibility as the 'Border Czar' and Vice President of the United States,' Republican Florida Representative Byron Donalds told DailyMail.com.
“I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come. Do not come.”— The Recount (@therecount) June 7, 2021
— VP Kamala Harris during news conference with Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei pic.twitter.com/dYNwu7STbS
'Vice President Harris is refusing to travel to the border because she will be forced to acknowledge the crisis she and the President have created if she does,' he continued.
'Local, State, and Federal leaders and law enforcement officials will be the first to let the Vice President know that there is a growing crisis on the border and that ignoring it or evading her responsibility by examining the root causes will only exacerbate this crisis.'
Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy also tore into Harris' bid to tackle the crisis as 'spend now strategize later'. In a statement he wrote: 'Today marks 75 days since President Biden chose Vice President Harris as his administration's point person to '[stem] the migration to our southern border.' She still has yet to travel to our southern border and see the extent of the crisis she and President Biden have created over the past six months.
'Instead of upholding her responsibilities to the American people and our communities impacted by the border crisis, Vice President Harris decided to focus her efforts on studying the 'root causes of migration' from Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries.
'That's why she's in Guatemala today, her first foreign trip since becoming Vice President, where she just held a press conference during which she dismissed going to the border as nothing more than 'grand gestures,' and declined to say when she'd actually go.
'This unconventional approach is nothing more than a cynical political decision to ensure the blame doesn't fall on her shoulders by distancing herself from Biden's Border Crisis.
'Now Vice President Harris and the Biden administration want to take the typical Democrat approach of throwing more taxpayer dollars at a problem without first thinking through a coherent strategy. Over the next four years, President Biden is proposing we send $4 billion in aid to Central America with the pretense this will help curb the historic migration happening at our southern border. But there are two glaring problems to their proposal of spending our way out of the border crisis: Aid programs have failed to stem migration in the past and border order apprehensions of individuals from countries outside of Central America are rapidly increasing.
'As Vice President, Biden has already tried spending our way out of a migration surge. He 'led an enormous push to deter people from crossing into the United States by devoting hundreds of millions of dollars to Central America.' However, that never panned out. In fact, in Guatemala specifically, the $1.6 billion America provided in aid over the last decade proved ineffective.
'Vice President Harris won't find the root cause of the border crisis on her Central America tour because it's her and President Biden's policies that are actually responsible. And word that our southern border is open reached significantly further than just Central America. The Border Patrol reported that encounters with individuals from nations other than Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador jumped by 35 percent since March 2021, and individuals from over 160 countries have recently been apprehended.'
GOP Senator Rick Scott called Harris' refusal to visit the border 'disgraceful' and an 'insult' to border law enforcement.
He said: 'Months after being chosen to lead the Biden administration's response to the border crisis it created, Vice President Harris has shown she'll do anything to avoid taking responsibility and showing real leadership. Her continued refusal to address the border crisis – which threatens the safety of American families – is disgraceful and an insult to our brave Customs and Border Protection agents. Buy in from Guatemala and Mexico is critical to getting this crisis under control, but first, Biden and Harris must acknowledge the humanitarian and national security chaos their policies have created here in America and see it firsthand at our border. Anything less is an unacceptable failure.'
Harris affirmed during her bilateral press conference Monday that she told Giammattei the U.S. will be donating 500,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine to Guatemala.
Harris was greeted with protesters when she arrived for her first international trip as vice president in Guatemala City, which is 2,142 miles from where families are streaming across the U.S.-Mexico border.
'Kamala go home,' one white flag with black painted letters read, while another demanded she 'mind her own business'.
As the vice president rode in her motorcade from her hotel to Palacio Nacional de la Cultura, reporters spoted a group of pro-Trump demonstrators with signs reading: 'Kamala, Trump won.'
During the press conference, Giammattei vowed Guatemala would set up 'returnee centers' where they would accept their citizens who the U.S. sent back after crossing the border illegally.
Harris began her meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei with quick remarks where she said: 'I very much have been looking forward to this trip, we have had many conversations, but it is good to see you in person.'
The two have spoken on the phone previously.
'I am very proud that this is my first foreign trip as vice president,' Harris continued. 'It is a reflection of the priority that President Biden placed on this region.'
As Harris commenced her two-day trip south of the border, migrant families continue to stream over into the U.S. either by foot or on inflatable rafts.
Ahead of the meeting, Giammattei made a statement in English.
'Thank you very much for your visit,' he said to Harris. 'For us, it's very important to have you here because it means that Guatemala and the United States can work as partners with common goals.'
He details some of the main goals as addressing narcotics trafficking, immigration, corruption in the region and building up prosperity walls within departments near the border with Mexico.
In a press conference following the meeting, Giammattei said – in Spanish this time – that the two nations would work toward more 'orderly migration' that would 'allow people to migrate regularly to the United States.'
'We also spoke about the need to support the United States with a returnee center that will be located in the western part of the country,' he continued, adding they are wording on a 'strong family reunification program.'
These efforts, he ensured, would 'help to ensure that the flow of persons in the southern border of the United States be controlled.'
Harris' trip started off bumpy on Sunday when Air Force 2 was forced to turn around minutes after take-off due to 'technical issues', which appeared to stem from an unusual noise coming from the landing gear.
'I'm good, I'm good. We all said a little prayer, but we're good,' Harris told reporters as she deplaned Air Force 2 and waited for another plane to get ready.
The vice president's team has made it clear that Harris' role as 'border czar' is to address the 'root causes' that lead to a mass amount of Central American citizens fleeing their home countries and migrating to the U.S.
If Kamala Harris wanted to find the root cause of the border crisis she could just go check in the Oval Office. He’s sitting right there.— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) June 7, 2021
Harris chief spokesperson Symone Sanders told reporters climate and economic downfall were among 'main drivers' of the surge in migrants.
Critics claim, however, that President Joe Biden is to blame for the crisis after he immediately rolled back Trump-era border restrictions upon taking office this year.
The Biden administration has denied that they are sending the message that the border is 'open', and instead is blaming it on 'root causes' in Northern Triangle nations like climate, poverty, crime and corruption.
More than 178,000 migrants crossed the border in April alone, which was a continuation of a spike in February and March. Numbers for May have not yet been released.
The Supreme Court sided with President Joe Biden by unanimously refused on Monday to let immigrants who have been allowed to stay in the U.S. on humanitarian grounds apply to become permanent residents if they entered the country illegally.
The justices, acting on an appeal by a married couple from El Salvador who were granted so-called Temporary Protected Status, upheld a lower court ruling that barred their applications for permanent residency, also known as a green card, because of their unlawful entry.
The case could affect 400,000 immigrants, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for years.
Biden, who has sought to reverse many of his Republican predecessor Donald Trump's hardline immigration policies, had opposed the immigrants in this case, placing the president at odds with immigration advocacy groups and some of his fellow Democrats.
The Biden administration is facing a massive crisis at the southern border, which includes record-high levels of illegal crossers and all-time high numbers of unaccompanied minors in U.S. custody.
In March, Biden put Harris in charge of the migration crisis – but the administration has still not referred to the situation as such.
As it appeared the problem wasn't going anywhere at the southern border, the administration quickly rebranded to indicate Harris is focused on addressing root causes that lead to mass migration to the U.S. from Northern Triangle countries – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Reports show the vice president's office didn't want to give her something that could be seen as a failure on her part.
Since taking over, Republicans have slammed the vice president for not once visiting the southern border, where enforcement groups are overwhelmed and facilities reached near 2,000 per cent capacity at some points.
Harris said she will go to Mexico during her trip south of the border, but maintained that she will still not stop at the U.S. side of the border.
She has also already spoken on the phone with Guatemalan President Giammattei and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Harris is meeting with Giammattei on Monday and will afterwards engage in events with Guatemalan community leaders and entrepreneurs afterwards.
On Tuesday, she will travel to Mexico City to meet with President López Obrador and participate in roundtables with women entrepreneurs and labor leaders in Mexico.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.