Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei criticized the Biden administration for unclear messaging on immigration that he said contributed to the border surge.
Giammattei told Fox News that, “You can see that humanitarian messages were used here by the coyotes in a distorted manner,” with “coyotes” a term for human smugglers.
“They said that they were going to support family reunification,” Giammattei said, referring to the Biden administration’s policy of allowing unaccompanied minors to enter the United States on humanitarian grounds and of seeking to unite them with family members in the United States.
“So the coyotes came and took the children and teenagers to the United States,” he said. “And the border filled up. Not only with people from Guatemala, but lots of people.”
“That’s why we have suggested that the messaging be clear,” Giammattei added.
The surge of people migrating from Central American countries has become one of the biggest political challenges to the Biden administration, with Republicans blaming the wave of illegal border crossings on a rollback of Trump-era immigration policies and on messaging that many would-be migrants and human traffickers are interpreting as an invitation to come to the United States.
Reuters interviews in April with nearly two dozen migrants and more than a dozen people identifying themselves as smugglers, as well as an examination of hundreds of posts in closed Facebook groups where smugglers advertise their services, shows that many would-be migrants believe that they are welcome to cross the border.
“There’s 100 days of free passage across the border,” a Guatemalan smuggler told Reuters, referring to one prevailing perception. “Supposedly the president is letting children in,” another told the outlet.
In dozens of interviews with The Associated Press around the same time, migrants said President Joe Biden’s relatively pro-immigration positions influenced their decision to leave their homes and seek entry into the United States.
BY TOM OZIMEK