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Kamala Harris will meet Guatemalan leader Arévalo on immigration and his anti-corruption drive

By COLLEEN LONG, Associated Press
Published: March 25, 2024, 8:34am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris plans to meet on Monday with President Bernardo Arévalo of Guatemala as the U.S. grapples with an influx of migrants to its southern border, thousands from that Central American nation.

The two leaders are expected to discuss the Biden administration’s use of so-called “safe mobility offices,” which were set up in Guatemala, Colombia, Costa Rica and Ecuador in the fall, among other immigration matters. The safe mobility offices are designed to streamline the U.S. refugee process so migrants apply where they are and avoid paying smugglers to make the journey north.

As the 2024 election heats up, immigration has become a rising bipartisan concern. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress say the system is broken, but efforts by lawmakers to address the problems have failed. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has tasked Harris with working to address the reasons people choose to leave their homelands to migrate to the U.S.

Harris and Arévalo will also discuss Arévalo’s anti-corruption agenda and how the U.S. can support the effort, according to a White House official, previewing the talks on the condition of anonymity.

Arévalo won the presidency in August, beating the establishment candidate by a comfortable margin. He is the son of a former president credited with implementing some of Guatemala’s key labor protections, but his strong showing in a crowded field was still a shock.

The politician with a background in academia and conflict resolution caught fire with a message of challenging the country’s entrenched power structure and resuming the fight against corruption.

The Democratic vice president is also expected to announce $5.2 billion in investments in Central America.

While still among the lowest monthly tallies in Biden’s presidency, the number of arrests for illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border nudged upward in February over the previous month to 189,922. Of those, 23,780 were Guatemalan.