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Kamala Harris speaks during a joint press conference with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on June 7. Photo: Johan Ordonez/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. will create a "smuggling and human trafficking task force" to crack down on human smuggling in Central America, the Biden administration said Monday as Vice President Harris visited Guatemala.

Why it matters: Harris discussed the task force on her first foreign trip as vice president. The trip is part of the administration's efforts to shore up diplomatic ties with Latin America and continue to address the surge of migration into the U.S. from the Southern border.

The big picture: Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that with the launch of the new task force on human trafficking, the U.S. was combining "investigative, prosecutorial, and capacity-building efforts of both the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security."

  • "Our focus will remain on disrupting and dismantling smuggling and trafficking networks that abuse, exploit, or endanger migrants, pose national security threats, and are involved in organized crime," he added. "Together, we will combat these threats where they originate and operate.”

What she's saying: Speaking at a press conference in Guatemala, Harris said she and Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei had a "robust, candid and thorough conversation” about the underlying causes of migration.

  • "The underlying reason for so much of what we are seeing in terms of this level and type of corruption is about profit. It is about profit without concern for the damage it creates to real human life, to families, to children, to communities," Harris said.
  • "I want to emphasize that the goal of our work is to help Guatemalans find hope at home," she added.
  • "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 also announced a number of initiatives the U.S. will undertake in the Guatemala, including:

  • The launch of a young women's empowerment initiative, intended to "increase education and economic opportunities for girls and women," said Harris.
  • Increased investment in Guatemalan agri-business as well as investment in "affordable housing and supporting entrepreneurs."

Go deeper

Updated Sep 11, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Trump visits NYC but opts out of official ceremony on 20th anniversary of 9/11

Former President Donald Trump struck a divisive tone as he visited New York City on Saturday, opting not to participate in the official ceremony at Ground Zero honoring the victims of the terrorist attacks.

Why it matters: The 45th president's remarks were in sharp contrast to the calls for unity from President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and former President George W. Bush, who alluded to the Capitol insurrection and the dangers of homegrown extremists in his own remarks in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Former Sen. David Perdue to launch bid for Georgia governor

Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images

Former Senator David Perdue (R) plans to announce a campaign against Georgia's incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp Monday, according to a source familiar with Perdue's thinking.

Why it matters: Perdue's challenge to his former ally Kemp sets up an unprecedented "scorched earth" battle between Georgia Republicans fueled by former President Donald Trump, in the battleground state. The news was first reported by Politico.

Updated 59 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan tributes flood in for "giant of the Senate" Bob Dole

Then-Vice President Joe Biden and former Sen. Bob Dole at an event put on by the World Food Program where he was awarded the first “McGovern-Dole Leadership Award” in December 2013. Photo: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

Republican and Democratic politicians, including former Senate colleagues, are sharing condolences and memories commemorating the life of Bob Dole, who passed away at 98 on Sunday morning.

The big picture: Dole, the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, was the longest serving Republican leader in the Senate until 2018, when current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell surpassed his record.