U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris emphasized "the power of hope" Monday, along with new efforts to fight corruption to persuade Latin Americans to stay home rather than attempt the risky migration north to the United States.
The White House has said that the goal of the trip is to show the two nations that the U.S. cares about finding long-term solutions to immigration.
"And I haven't been to Europe", Harris said.
"Most people do not want to leave the place where they grew up", loved ones, and people with whom they share a language and culture, Harris said.
Harris arrived in Guatemala first where she sat down with Giammattei on Monday.
She has already spoken to both Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on the phone.
She was tapped for the role at the end of March as the number of migrants looking to cross the US border surges.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Guatemala's President Alejandro Giammattei wave as they pose for a photo on a balcony at the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura, in Guatemala City, Guatemala, June 7, 2021.
Harris announced the formation of an anti-corruption task force, comprised of officials from the departments of Justice, Treasury and State, to address another thorny issue in the region.
At the news conference, Giammattei blamed drug traffickers for corruption.
On the immigration front he announced a new processing center for migrants sent back from Mexico and the United States, which could increase capacity.
"The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our borders..."
Harris also met civil society leaders and entrepreneurs in Guatemala.
Harris' trip is fraught with US political implications, with Republicans blaming President Joe Biden and Harris for the surge in migrants trying to cross the country's southwestern border with Mexico.
Since President Joe Biden took office in January, the number of migrants taken into custody per month at the U.S. Mexico border has risen to the highest levels in 20 years.
Harris will also stop in Mexico City on this first trip in her assignment to spearhead efforts to address the root cause of the surge in migration.
The Biden administration has identified corruption as an underlying cause of the poverty and violence driving record numbers of Central Americans to go to the United States.
It wasn't clear what trip Harris was referencing. Large signs near the Central American country's palace also read "mind your own business".
She rejected Republican criticism of the fact that neither she nor Biden had visited the USA southern border, saying she had come to Central America to discuss matters in a "way that is significant and has real results" rather than making "grand gestures". She said the United States has contributed to regime change and destabilization in Latin America for decades.