Kamala Harris spoke directly to Guatemalans during her first trip abroad as vice president, warning those who may be considering migrating to the United States: “Do not come.”
At an international news conference Monday following a meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, Harris said the focus of her mission in Guatemala was to help locals “find hope at home.”
“I want to emphasize that the goal of our work is to help Guatemalans find hope at home. 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. Do not come,” Harris said.
“The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border. There are legal methods by which migration can and should occur,” she continued. “But we as one of our priorities will discourage illegal migration. And I believe, if you come to our border, you will be turned back. So let’s discourage our friends, our neighbors, our family members, from embarking on what is otherwise an extremely dangerous journey.”
Harris also announced the creation of a task force to tackle corruption and human smuggling, as well as $40 million to help bolster education and economic opportunities for women and girls in the country.
“We are creating this task force to address corruption, to address human smuggling, doing the work to make sure certain progress be made if we are going to attract investment,” Harris said.
“We must root out corruption wherever it exists,” she continued. “It erodes the confidence the people have in their government and its leaders.”
Harris faced backlash from fellow Democrats following her remarks, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who called the comments “disappointing.”
“This is disappointing to see. First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival. Second, the US spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “We can’t help set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for fleeing.”
According to NPR, when asked about Ocasio-Cortez’s comments, Harris said she was focused on dealing with the “root causes” of the migration crisis.
“Listen — I’m really clear we have to deal with the root causes. And that is my focus. Period,” Harris said before boarding Air Force Two.
Upon her arrival in Guatemala, Harris was greeted by protesters displaying signs that read “Trump won” and “Go home.”
“Kamala, Mind Your Own Business,” one sign read.
Another sign stated, “Guatemala is pro-life #momalahelpme,” and featured a photoshopped image of Kamala pregnant.
A third sign read, “Kamala Stop Funding Criminals #FueraDeGuatemala.”