Kamala Harris has returned to the US from her first overseas trip and her big test since becoming vice president, and she took up the hot topic of immigration, hit by criticism for her harsh message of “No come “to the desperate migrants and their irritation. Ambivalence about the visit to the US-Mexico border.
Harris returned to US soil from a three-day trip to Guatemala and Mexico just as Joe Biden flew to the UK on Wednesday on his first overseas adventure since winning the White House.
His may be a major visit meant to reassure European allies and confront Russia after the divisive era of Donald Trump.
But Harris’s shorter foray was never going to be an easy path, either with the goal of addressing “the root causes” of hundreds of thousands of migrants who make the perilous journey to the southern United States border in search of entry to the United States. USA.
Most try to enter illegally or appeal to border authorities to allow them to apply for asylum through the US courts.
With factors like poverty and government corruption, a legacy of war and dictatorship, and as many foreign obstacles as it helps in Central American politics throughout the decades, any trip by a new U.S. president or vice president is fraught with a high risk of failure.
On top of that, new trends, such as increased forced migration due to the climate crisis, ensured that Harris would never achieve one-time solutions.
But while her hosts declared her visits a success, the “get tough” stance she promoted with leaders on corruption was overshadowed by an awkward interview and criticism from progressive US torchbearers like New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her harsh statements directed at migrants.
Ocasio-Cortez called Harris On twitter, saying his comments were “disappointing to watch.”
“First, seeking asylum on any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival,” said the congresswoman, adding: “Second, the United States spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America. We can’t help setting someone’s house on fire and then blaming them for running away. “
Various human rights groups also spoke to criticize Harris’s comments.
With illegal crossings into the US across the US-Mexico border accelerating during the first months of the Biden administration, as US border authorities reported finding nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children crossing in March, the pressure on Harris has been intense.
Biden put her in charge of dealing with the border issue in particular, within a broader immigration policy, as the first weeks of his presidency included stark reporting and images of children crammed into detention centers on the US side of the border, with overwhelmed legal information and social processing systems.
Overall, more than 170,000 encounters were reported at the border in April, between migrants, mostly from Central America, and US authorities, the highest level in more than 20 years.
Harris, who has been under pressure at home to visit the U.S.-Mexico border since he was assigned the job but has not yet, focused his three-day visit on economic development, climate and food insecurity. .
In Guatemala, the origin of nearly half of the migrants who gathered at the US border in recent months, Harris and the president, Alejandro Giammattei, expressed optimism that they could work together.
The Biden administration has committed nearly $ 4 billion in commitments to help address the “root causes” of migration. In addition to that, Harris was also frank in her message, saying that “the goal of our work is to help Guatemalans find hope at home.”
But it was when Harris said in a speech: “I want to make it clear to the people of this region that you are thinking of making that dangerous trip to the US-Mexico border: ‘Don’t come, don’t come,’” which heads the entire political landscape. and the media in the United States changed.
It’s no different message than the people in the Biden administration have publicly delivered before. But the stark statement actually made in a country where people are forced to turn to the United States out of desperation elicited a strong response.
Ocasio-Cortez described her comments as “disappointing” and noted that it is legal to seek asylum in the United States from persecution in another country.
Harris responded only indirectly, saying: “It is clear to me: we have to deal with root causes and that is my hope. Period.”
Harris was also forced to reject criticism that she had not yet visited the US-Mexico border since she became vice president. These visits are a dangerous photo opportunity for leaders seeking to establish foreign and domestic policy credentials.
And he broached the subject awkwardly when asked in an early morning TV interview about why he hadn’t visited the border this year, saying he hadn’t been to Europe either.
“Well, let’s go to the border,” Harris added to NBC news anchor Lester Holt. “We have to deal with what is happening at the border, there is no question about that.”
Moving from a short stay in Guatemala to Mexico City, Harris sought to assure the poor and threatened populations of Latin America Tuesday that the United States has “the ability to give people a sense of hope” and is focused on results. ” tangible “”. in front of the great gestures ”.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that Mexico is in a completely new phase of relations with the United States.
Eduardo Gamarra, professor of international relations at Florida International University, told The Guardian that it was an important trip. Harris issued a very significant statement in terms of refuting the Republicans’ position that Democrats are pursuing an ‘open border’ policy, and made it quite clear to Giammattei that the United States is willing to invest, but that there must be change. significant in the way corruption is handled, ”he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism