U.S.'s Harris to discuss immigration with Mexican leader Friday

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will meet virtually with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday to discuss immigration policies, her second time talking to him in a month.

President Joe Biden has entrusted Harris with leading efforts to cut immigration from Mexico and Central America’s “Northern Triangle” countries – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – as the administration grapples with an increase in people crossing into the United States at the southern border.

Asked what Harris hoped to accomplish in the talks and what if any agreements were expected, Ricardo Zuniga, the U.S. special envoy on Central America’s Northern Triangle countries, said on Wednesday that the discussions would delve into immigration but also go beyond that issue.

“We’re undertaking these kinds of engagements with the view of the totality of our relationship with Mexico in mind,” Zuniga said. “Mexico is our largest trading partner … We’re deeply connected to them through economics and, through … our value chain and production chains.”

Harris has said she will visit Mexico and Guatemala on June 7-8 – her first foreign trip as Vice President.

“The issue tomorrow will be migration, basically,” Lopez Obrador told a news conference on Thursday. He said other subjects could also surface, including when to lift curbs on the border imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Separately, Zuniga said the Biden administration plans to release by the end of June a list of Central American officials who it deems corrupt and may be subject to sanctions, as Washington seeks to cut back on a root cause of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

“No matter how much effort we put in on curbing violence, on providing disaster relief, on tackling food insecurity, on any event. We will not make significant progress if corruption in the region persists,” Harris said last week.

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