The last conversation the Guatemalan president had with Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss immigration was in June, and the Central American country says its calls for help with border security have largely fallen on deaf ears, Kevin Lopez Oliva, the spokesman for Guatemala’s president, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The Biden administration tasked Harris with addressing the “root causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras” in March 2021, which led Republicans to label her the “border czar.”


Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei has requested security assistance from the Biden administration and Harris, but the administration’s focus has largely been on helping people get to the U.S. in more streamlined ways, Lopez Oliva said.

The last public event Harris held on the issue was last Feb. 6 after the Biden administration, as Harris put it, “generated more than $3.2 billion in investments” in Central America and an additional $956 million in “private-sector commitments.” In April, the Biden administration announced the opening of “regional processing centers” in Colombia and Guatemala to help migrants come to the U.S. legally.

That was the topic of the June phone call between Harris and Giammattei, Lopez Oliva said. 

“It was a conversation regarding the immigration processing centers that are functioning right now in Guatemala,” Lopez Oliva said of that phone call in an interview with the Daily Caller News Foundation at the Guatemalan Embassy in Washington.

“She called him to celebrate that they were functioning,” Lopez Oliva said as he reflected on Giammattei’s tenure in office, which will end next week.

Since that conversation, illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border has continued to hit record levels. December marked the highest month on record with more than 300,000 migrant encounters, according to Fox News.

The Border Patrol has recorded more that 1 million migrant encounters at the southern border since June, according to federal data.

Lopez Oliva said the funding to address the root causes of migration has been “diverted and allocated to these nonprofit organizations,” rather than to the national police and security forces in Guatemala.

The U.S. Department of Defense in October 2022 donated 95 vehicles to the Guatemalan military to support border security efforts. These included “Toyota Hilux vehicles, 5- and 12-ton Hino trucks, Toyota Land Cruisers and Suzuki off-road motorcycles.”

Guatemala earlier denied a request from a delegation that Harris sent to the region to allow foreigners who cross into their country illegally to utilize the migration centers in the country, according to Lopez Oliva.

“We said no. President Giammattei has been really clear in that regard that we are not a safe third country,” he said.

“So, then we thought about it. OK, so they have the money. Why won’t they give us the money to our police, to our military, that’s at the border,” Lopez Oliva said, adding, “We were asking for money to fund the border security issues with our armed forces. They said that it’s not possible.”

The Guatemalan government has enhanced sentences on human traffickers and smugglers with a penalty of up to 30 years in prison and has asked that the Biden administration help in efforts to crack down on migrant caravans. Giamattei has wanted to focus on security, rather than creating more pathways for people to enter Guatemala on their way to the U.S.

“We have been strengthening the criminal charges and the criminal sentences against human smugglers in Guatemala because we wanted to promote regional security,” Lopez Oliva said.

Giammattei offered to host an Air Force base in his country to carry out deportations before migrants reach the U.S., he said.

“Imagine, President Giammattei was offering to stop the immigration there, and then he was asking for support in fuel, vehicles, at least to stop the caravans in Central America,” Lopez Oliva said.

The White House didn’t respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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