The Biden team hopes to address the immigration crisis at the root rather than turning away or arresting migrants at the US-Mexico border. They say they’re looking for a long-term fix with diplomatic solutions to address poverty and violence in countries where many immigrants are fleeing.
- In March, President Joe Biden assigned Vice President Kamala Harris to address what Republicans have called an immigration “crisis.”
- Biden’s election seemed to encourage migrants to cross the United States-Mexico border. The policies he promised during the 2020 campaign were the opposite of the heavy-handed, harsh penalties the Trump administration enacted.
- The Biden team hopes to address the immigration crisis at the root rather than turning away or arresting migrants at the US-Mexico border. They say they’re looking for a long-term fix with diplomatic solutions to address poverty and violence in countries where many immigrants are fleeing.
- In the last week, Harris made a trip to Latin America, stopping in Guatemala and Mexico.
- But in a continuation of past administrations’ immigration policy, Harris ended her tour by discouraging immigrants from making the trek across Mexico into the US.
What was Harris’ goal in Mexico and Guatemala?
- Harris was sent to talk with people from the countries and create a dialogue. She met with presidents from both countries but also met with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), justice advocates and powerful members of the private sector.
- For her part, Harris said she was there to “address the root causes” of the influx of migrants at the US border.
- In Guatemala, Harris and Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei agreed to create two task forces, one to combat government corruption and one to combat human trafficking. The two also agreed to give over US$80 million of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) money for economic development and female empowerment.
- In her last speech in Guatemala, some of Harris’ language focused on the danger of the journey from Guatemala to the US. But Harris also emphatically said “do not come” to anyone planning on migrating from Guatemala to America through Mexico.
- Much of the speech was similar to Biden’s, when he originally addressed the alarming number of migrants coming to the US border. Though members of the Biden administration promised to change or get rid of Trump-era policies, they have also asked people not to come, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How do Democrats feel?
- Though the main idea – addressing the root cause of the issue instead of arresting migrants at the border – is applauded by many on the left, progressives aren’t so excited about the tone and content of Harris’ speech in Guatemala.
- Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, commonly referred to as AOC expressed her displeasure at Harris’ speech in Guatemala over Twitter.
- “This is disappointing to see,” she tweeted. “the US spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America. We can’t help set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for fleeing.”
- Ocasio-Cortez’s argument that the US’ presence in Latin America, particularly during the Cold War, resulted in a lot of chaos in the region isn’t wrong.
- In 1954, the US removed Guatemala’s president Jacob Arbenz because he was “soft on communism.” Over the next forty years, 200,000 people were killed by guerrilla attacks, civil war and government crackdowns because of the chaos caused by the removal of the president.
- So basically what AOC is saying is that the US is partially to blame for the many Latin American citizens wanting out, so Americans should see citizens fleeing those countries as their responsibility.
How have Republicans responded?
- Republicans have stated that Harris is wasting her time visiting other countries instead of going directly to the source on American soil – the US-Mexico border – to address the humanitarian crisis.
- On April 13, seven Republican Representatives wrote Harris a letter, pleading that she visit the US-Mexico border in order to “make the journey to the southern border and to work with Congress to find solutions to mitigate this humanitarian and national security crisis in order to protect our nation.”
- “We are greatly concerned about the Biden administration’s ability or willingness to respond to this humanitarian crisis,” the letter stated, “when neither the President nor the Vice President has gone to the Southwest border to assess this crisis for themselves.”
- Harris was hit by a series of questions about the border from reporters during her time in Mexico and Guatemala, something she continually dodged to keep the focus on her task of establishing a dialogue with people from Latin America.
- Even though politicians disagree with parts of Harris and Biden’s fixes, a Civiqs poll found that 85% of Americans, which includes 87% of Republicans asked, believe that “the US government should work more closely with other countries in the region to preemptively reduce migration.”
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