Kamala Harris talks migration crisis with Finland’s president

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The problem is more than 6,000 miles and a great ocean away from him, but Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday asked Finland’s president to help stem the flow of migrants from Central America to the US-Mexico border.

Harris has faced Republican criticism for her few public events to address the crisis since President Biden asked her on March 24 to lead the response to a historic surge of illegal border crossings.

Harris and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö “discussed the need for more coordinated international action to address the root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle, and for sustained unity and vigilance to counter the destabilizing actions Russia continues to carry out across the Euro-Atlantic area,” Harris’ office said.

It’s unclear how Niinistö would help address “push” factors for migration in Central America, such as poverty and crime.

Finland is a far-away Nordic country and its population is one-third the size of Guatemala’s. It is, however, the home of telecom giant Nokia, and some left-leaning Democrats assert that global warming linked to fossil fuel use has worsened weather conditions in the region, potentially implicating even distant countries like Finland.

Harris has not traveled to Central America or to the US-Mexico border as part of her role, which the White House has stressed pertains only to the “root causes” of migration. But her schedule noticeably contains more events pertaining to the crisis following sustained GOP criticism of her unrelated travel.

On Tuesday afternoon, she will host a webcast meeting with Guatemalan nonprofits.

On Monday, Harris hosted a virtual meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei and said she plans to visit the country in June. But she has not yet spoken with the leaders of El Salvador or Honduras.

El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras together comprise the “Northern Triangle” that’s driving a surge in unaccompanied minors and families to the US border. There’s at least a 20-year high in illegal crossings and children are held in cramped, jail-like conditions.

Most of Harris’ meeting with Giammattei was closed to the press. In opening remarks, she outlined a wide-ranging agenda.

“We are looking at the issue of poverty and the lack therefore of economic opportunities; the issue of extreme weather conditions and the lack of climate adaptation, as well as corruption and the lack of good governance, and violence against women, indigenous people, LBGTQ people and Afro descendants,” Harris said.

She also claimed that the US “is building a comprehensive strategy with international institutions, with allies around the globe, with foundations here in the United States and the private sector as well as community organizations.”

Harris said this month that she also asked Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to help with the migration crisis, but she didn’t say if he agreed to do anything. Japan is the home of many large international companies, including car companies that have manufacturing centers in the US and Mexico.

Republicans attribute the migrant surge to Biden border policy changes and say Biden-backed legislation that would allow citizenship for most illegal immigrants creates new “pull” factors.

In February, Biden terminated former President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy that required Central American asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while US courts reviewed their claims.

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