Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Central America’s “Northern Triangle” was rocky — and it just earned her a brutal new nickname.
Harris’ first foreign trip was an attempt to slow the illegal immigration crisis on the U.S. southern border.
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But her trip was considered a “disaster” one aide told The Hill.
“It wasn’t great,” another Democratic ally said about a recent interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt. “A little cringeworthy too. I don’t know how they weren’t preparing for these questions.”
“It was terrible,” a third told The Hill. “I don’t know how else to say it.”
And it earned the vice president a new nickname: “Guatemala Harris.”
She completed the journey without securing any commitments to increase illegal immigration enforcement from the United States’ Latin America partners.
It was her first international trip aboard Air Force Two, and a failed attempt toward establishing herself on a core foreign policy issue — one that has bedeviled American presidents at least since Ronald Reagan.
Harris came away from her meetings with the Guatemalan and Mexican presidents able to talk about commitments to work more closely with them on economic development and on combating trafficking, smuggling, and corruption. But she also faced persistent questions about her decision not to visit the U.S.-Mexico border. Republicans have seized on the fact that neither Biden nor Harris has visited the border to argue that the administration is absent on the issue.
Harris was called out by the Democratic left, too, for using her platform in Guatemala to tell people thinking of fleeing to the U.S. that they should not. “Do not come,” she said. “Do not come.”
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York blasted those comments as “disappointing.”
While White House aides have repeatedly tried to clarify that Harris’ assignment is narrowly focused on diplomatic solutions to the immigration situation, she was again forced to spend part of a trip meant to showcase her diplomatic chops explaining herself.
“It would be very easy to say, ‘We’ll travel to one place and therefore it’s solved,’” she said. “I don’t think anybody thinks that that would be the solution.”
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The criticism from both Republicans and some Democrats underscored the difficulty Harris faces in finding success with a crisis that has only grown in recent months.
Illegal border crossings have increased steadily since April 2020, after then-President Donald Trump invoked pandemic-related powers to deny illegal immigrants the opportunity to seek asylum.
The new president quickly scrapped many of Trump’s hard-line border policies — most notably the program that made asylum-seekers wait in Mexico, often in dangerous conditions, for court dates in U.S. immigration court.
That has led to a drastic acceleration of illegal immigration under the Biden administration.
U.S. border authorities encountered nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children in March, the highest on record. Overall, more than 170,000 encounters were reported on the border in April, the highest level in more than 20 years.
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Guatemala Harris’ disastrous trip certainly didn’t help.
The Associated Press contributed to this article