Kamala Harris to Hold Virtual Border Meeting With Mexican Leader as GOP Criticism Mounts

Vice President Kamala Harris is reportedly set to officially hold border talks on May 7 with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with their virtual meeting intended to focus on a tree-planting program and the "root causes" of migration.

Harris, who President Joe Biden tapped to lead the U.S. border response on March 24, is expected to hear the Mexican president's proposal to expand a tree-planting program aimed at curbing poverty and migration among Central American migrants.

López Obrador pitched his "Planting Life" expansion plan to create 1.2 million jobs and plant 3 billion trees to Biden at Thursday's climate change summit. Mexican officials said he will urge Harris to create six-month work visas and eventual paths to citizenship through the environmental program, which he wants to see extended into Honduras and Guatemela.

Despite incessant criticism from Republicans who said Harris and Biden are refusing to physically visit the border to deal with the crisis, Harris' office announced Saturday that she is looking forward to focusing on "the common goals of prosperity, good governance, and addressing the root causes of migration."

Newsweek reached out to Harris' office to address López Obrador's tree-planting initiative not being mentioned in U.S. statements about next month's virtual meeting.

The "Sembrando Vida" program has already planted 700,000 trees in Mexico and pays 450,000 Mexican farmers $225-per-month to take care of the saplings. López Obrador told the climate change summit attendees that the carbon-capture from the planted trees can help offset the effects of climate change as well as the country's push for more fossil fuels.

"This meeting will deepen the partnership between our countries to achieve the common goals of prosperity, good governance, and addressing the root causes of migration," Symone Sanders, Harris' chief spokesperson, said in a statement to Reuters Saturday.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard tweeted Saturday that he and Economy Minister Tatiana Clouthier will be in attendance at the May 7 virtual talks. The Mexican government officials expressed their plan to also ask the U.S. to send more COVID-19 vaccines south of the border.

"The meeting will discuss cooperation to deal with the pandemic and Mexico's proposal to extend the Sembrando Vida program to Central America to deal with forced migration due to poverty. It will be a productive and cordial conversation," Ebrard tweeted.

Critics of the Mexican tree-planting program, however, said that some farmers on unprofitable natural woodlands have simply cut down their own trees in order to qualify for the program. Meanwhile, Republican critics in Washington continued to ridicule Harris and the Biden administration for having no plans to physically show up at the U.S. southern border.

"Reminder: Kamala Harris was named the border crisis manager a month ago today," the Republican Party Twitter account posted Saturday.

kamala harris mexico border meeting
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a roundtable at the Ceremonial Office of the Vice President at Eisenhower Executive Office Building April 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. Harris is expected to hold virtual talks with Mexico's president on May 7, 2021. ALEX WONG / Staff/Getty Images