While discussing the US border during a news conference with Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei Ms Harris urged residents not to travel to the US border.
“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,” the vice president said on Monday.
She added: “The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border. There are legal methods which migration can and should occur, but we as one of our priorities will discourage illegal migration.”
Ms Harris said that those who come to the border will be “turned back” asking the audience to discourage those around them from embarking on the “extremely dangerous” journey.
In a post on Twitter, Democratic representative Ms Ocasio-Cortez was quick to condemn the speech, point out that seeking asylum at the border is legal and calling the rhetoric “disappointing to see”.
“First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100 per cent legal method of arrival,” she said in response to the clip on Monday.
Global humanitarian aid organisation, the International Rescue Committee, explains that “seeking asylum is legal—even during a pandemic.”
AOC continued: “Second, the US spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America. We can’t help set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for fleeing.”
The vice president offered an optimistic outlook during the speech for improved cooperation with Guatemala on addressing the spike in migration across the US.
The overwhelming number of migrants traveling to the border has become one of the most difficult challenges for the new administration since Joe Biden took office.
While the new government has taken steps to roll back some of the harshest policies of former president Donald Trump a policy allowing border officials to immediately send people back upon arrival remains in place.
The president has previously conveyed a similar message to those contemplating traveling to the border, having urged migrants in March to stay away from the US-Mexico border.
The president told ABC News in an interview: “I can say quite clearly: Don’t come.” “We’re in the process of getting set up,” Mr Biden added. “Don’t leave your town, or city or community”.
April was the second-busiest month on record for unaccompanied children encountered at the border, following an all-time high in March.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press
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