Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris (299075)
Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris Credit: Photo by Adam Schultz/Biden for President photo

Vice President Kamala Harris’ first trip abroad had a troubling start, and didn’t get any better once she landed in Guatemala. You might say Kamala in Guatemala, muy mala or very bad in Spanish. On Sunday her flight to Guatemala was forced to return to Joint Base Andrews due to technical issues.

The vice president could not have been pleased to hear Guatemala’s President Alejandro Giammattei tell CBS News, “We are not on the same side of the coin. It is obvious. We are in agreement on the ‘what,’ which is something. We are not in agreement on the ‘how.’”

One of the main concerns is President Biden’s pledge not to deport unaccompanied children and basically to set aside many of the more inhumane practices of the Trump administration, instead making an effort to reunite families.

This change in policy disturbs Giammattei, who noted that as soon as the move was made to reunite families “the coyotes [the smugglers] here were organizing groups of children to take them to the United States,” he said.

There are other important issues on Harris’ agenda as she visits Guatemala and Mexico, including economic and anti-corruption efforts in the region that are viewed as root causes of migration in the Northern Triangle, which includes Honduras and El Salvador. Biden has thrown his vice president in a briar patch of problems that will test her fortitude and patience.

Her trip underscores the need to develop an acceptable immigration plan on both sides of the border, and experts are in agreement that one trip by the vice president, while a meaningful gesture, is not substantive enough.

This is a challenge that is fully recognized by the Biden administration, and Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security secretary, has cited on several occasions the difficulties on the border and with the immigration policy in general. The U.S., he told reporters, was “on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.”

What is clearly on the horizon is a seemingly irresolvable problem that will be more difficult than ever.