Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday said that Mexico’s refusal to take back some migrant families turned away from the U.S. was not even discussed in her meetings with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador – as she unveiled a number of U.S. investments in Mexico and the Northern Triangle.
Harris was in Mexico for a two-day trip to the region as part of her diplomatic efforts to tackle the “root causes” of the migrant surge that has overwhelmed U.S. border facilities and saw more than 178,000 migrants hit the border in April alone.
The U.S. is, on paper, expelling single adults and migrant families via Title 42 public health protections due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the administration has been releasing a number of families into the U.S. interior – often without notices to appear in court – due to Mexico’s refusal to take back in migrant families with tender age children.
U.S. officials have said that the refusal took place just days after Inauguration Day and led directly to a surge at the border.
“The surge of family units began in the Rio Grande Valley on Jan 23 when Tamaulipas stopped taking back Northern Triangle families with tender-aged children under the age of 7,” acting Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commission Troy Miller told lawmakers last month.
Miller said this led to the situation in March when Border Patrol would not only release migrants but would release them without Notices to Appear in court – instead, giving them a notice to report to their local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office.
“The situation on March 19, we encountered 2,439 migrants between the ports of entry in RGV alone,” he said. “We had over 2,600 unaccompanied children of which 1,943 were held over 72 hours in our soft-sided facilities.”
On Tuesday, after a bilateral meeting with Mexico’s leader, Harris was asked, as part of a question about legal pathways for migrants, if she came to agreements with Lopez Obrador about taking back more families turned away via Title 42.
While she said she had discussions about the need “to re-examine travel restrictions” and Mexico issuing work visas for people entering its southern border, she did not mention the vexing issue of Title 42 returnees until the reporter followed up.
“We did not discuss Title 42,” Harris then responded.
It comes after a visit during which Harris announced a wealth of initiatives that will primarily benefit Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, but that the administration believes will contribute to tackling the “root causes” behind migration such as poverty, climate change and violence in Central America.
On Monday, in Guatemala, Harris touted U.S. investments in agribusiness, affordable housing and Guatemalan entrepreneurs. The U.S. recently announced $310 million in aid to the region, as part of a $4 billion planned investment in Central America.
She announced a young women’s empowerment initiative to increase education and employment among women and girls, as well as task forces to combat human trafficking, drug smuggling and corruption. She said she had had “frank’ discussions with the Guatemalans on the question of fighting corruption.
On Tuesday, in Mexico, she highlighted a $130 million U.S. investment in Mexican workers’ protections and labor reform, as well as further partnering to address human trafficking and smuggling organizations and a strategic partnership to address root causes of migration in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
“Do I declare this trip a success?” Harris said. “Yes, I do.”
Author : Adam Shaw