Five Key Events to Understand US-Guatemala Relation in 2021
US Changed Administration
The new Biden administration tried to change Trump's Safe Third Country policy, kind of. It stopped family separation at the border, or tried to. Deportees continue to be sent back to Mexico, or Guatemala. It applied the powers granted by the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act (Undemocratic and Corrupt Actors List, or Engel's list for short), enacted in December 2020.
The new administration appointed bureaucrats to deal with the whole migration on the southern border issue. Ambassador Roberta Jacobson served briefly as the Southern Border Policy Coordinator. From early March to August, Ambassador Ricardo Zuñiga was the Special Envoy to Central America, a mission now included in his duties as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for WHA. In mid March, President Biden tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the effort.
Top Advisor Calls on "Predatory Elite"
In late March, National Security Council senior director for WHA Juan Gonzalez blamed the Central American elite for not doing their share to change the conditions that cause migration in their countries, saying: "You have, frankly, a predatory elite that benefits from the status quo, which is to not pay any taxes or invest in social programs". Gonzalez did not clarify if he includes or excludes the US in that elite or what other types of elite are there.
Vice President Harris Visited Guatemala
On June 7th, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Guatemala, before traveling to Mexico. Harris, who is proud of being an American daughter of migrants, told those here considering migration: "Do not come to the US". For some reason, she did not share this message in Mexico. In July, her office published the Strategy for Addressing the Root Causes of Migration in Central America.
US Blacklisted 22 Key Public Figures
Currently, there are several types of lists that the US can include public figures: the most severe is the Magnitsky Act, which bans those designated from entering the US and freezes their assets; the less severe is the Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act (Engel's) List, which bans individuals from entering the US. Most Guatemalans designated have been to Engel's list.
Guatemala Somewhat Complying
The Government of Guatemala continues to attempt to deter migrant flows through Guatemala, either by caravan or by illegal group operations. It continues to receive deportees arriving in flights and even on foot across the border with Mexico, such as El Ceibo. It continues to arrest people wanted for extradition to the US. Unlike other governments in the region, it is still trying to comply with what it understands are still the main priorities of the US.