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Days ago, Vice President Kamala Harris discouraged Central Americans from “embarking on what is otherwise an extremely dangerous journey.” VP Harris’ assignment was to attend a conference with Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei and address the root causes that are causing South Americans to flee.
VP Harris is now receiving a lot of backlash from both political parties. Members of the Democratic Party, like New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, acknowledge that even under legal U.S. policy, the government shouldn’t ask someone not to flee an area it helped destroy.
“The US spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America,” Ocasio Cortez said. “We can’t help set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for fleeing.”
Biden’s press secretary defends VP Harris
The White House Press Secretary, Lauren Psaksi, stated that Harris stuck to her assignment and successfully met with Guatemalan President Giammattei because their current focus is addressing the core issue that leads to immigrants fleeing from home and crossing the Mexico border. Harris’ goal is to better the conditions so they won’t need to be at the border in the first place.
But many are saying VP Harris’ statement was anti-human rights as she compared the border to a wealthy continent during an interview with Lester Holt. When he stated that she had never been to the border, she retorted, “I’ve also never been to Europe.”
Yet, Europe doesn’t have children in cages. Europe is not even in the jurisdiction Lester Holt was addressing. Still, she has made it clear she wants to prevent the need for going to the border. She wants Central Americans to feel safe where they are, with the goal of no longer needing to seek refuge in the U.S.
Root causes of migration
Republicans are criticizing her because she hasn’t been to the border to defend it and see its current condition, but they haven’t applauded her for discouraging southern refugees from coming to the border in the first place.
Psaki stated that they would not be taking guidance or advice from former President Trump because his administration is a large part of the reason why the border is in its current problematic state.
Although VP Harris hasn’t been to the border, she’s indicated a commitment to addressing the root cause, which is in Central America, and has stated she plans to visit the border in the future. Both parties agree that she needs to visit, see the cages and the conditions of migrants, but few have reiterated the fact that she also needs to continue the work she ‘s doing.
Still, immigrant advocates, like Tulsan Linda Allegro, felt disappointed by the words coming from an administration she thought would strike a new tone on immigration.
“VP Harris came across as very cold especially considering she was in Guatemala as a visitor. It was also confusing to some of us immigrant justice advocates who were expecting a different message on immigration from the Biden White House. To tell someone who is seeking asylum not to come is also a violation of international law,” Allegro said.