Early in the week of June 7th, Vice President Kamala Harris travelled to Central America, focusing her speeches on U.S. migration concerns. In particular, she told Guatemalans, “Do not come. Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border.” Al Jazeera reports that Harris expressed the same message toward potential migrants from El Salvador and Honduras as a significant number of individuals who travel to the U.S. border come from these regions. This trip proved to carry harsh rhetoric toward corruption and border-trafficking, preceding the creation of an anti-corruption task force unveiled by the Biden administration on Monday, June 7th. This task force is specifically regarding Guatemala’s history with smuggling and corruption. The trip on a whole was met with mixed reviews in both the United States and abroad.
Regarding the task force, the United States is displaying a new and firm stance on Guatemala. As Reuters reports, “U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said the Joint Task Force Alpha would marshal U.S. Justice Department and Homeland Security resources against ‘the most prolific and dangerous’ human smuggling and trafficking groups in the region.” Reuters writes that President Giammattei of Guatemala, “defended his own record in fighting corruption, saying he had not been accused of wrongdoing and saying that graft was not only a problem faced by politicians. The fight against drug trafficking needed to be an integral part of tackling corruption, he said.” Vice President Harris’s rhetoric has not only caused indignation from foreign powers, but also from politicians within the United States, such as Representative Ocasio-Cortez who writes that Harris’s statements abroad were “disappointing to see.”
While the Biden administration faces an immigration crisis at their border, many are unimpressed with the way it is being handled. The New York Times writes, “the Biden administration has continued to use a Trump-era rule to turn back most migrant adults, sparking backlash from human rights groups.” Vice President Harris’s recent and harsh rhetoric on migration does not help to facilitate a better image. While the Biden administration points out Guatemalan President Giammattei’s track record with corruption, looking inward on how to better change immigration policies within the U.S. should be an equally important policy area. NPR explains the contradictions as there is “The double message – first [Harris is] saying to potential migrants, don’t come. Secondly, she’s saying, we understand why migrants want to leave their home countries.”
The U.S. border continues to be a polarizing topic for Republicans and Democrats alike. Since President Biden’s inauguration in January of 2021, there has been an influx of migrants to the border as reported by NPR. News outlets such as CNN outline Biden’s first 100 days in office and what he has done for immigration reform, such as rescinding Trump-era policies and trying to rebuild relationships with many Central and South American countries. Despite this, Harris’s trip to Central America and the administration’s restraint to appease the far left on border policy has raised concerns over the handling of this issue. Their border reform is not as left-leaning as the country may have expected before Biden’s inauguration, and it does not line up with his campaign promises. CBS also reports President Biden’s harsh blow to refugees at the border as “Mr. Biden kept the historic-low 15,000-person cap, provoking swift and vocal condemnation from Democratic lawmakers and refugee advocates.” While he revoked this decision, the number of refugees that have been allowed into the U.S. this year is still strikingly low.
Harris’s trip to Central America highlights the messy and unregulated situation at the border that is sad, not a new problem. As the Biden administration fails to follow through with more lenient migration policies, Harris’s trip only provides a confusing and somewhat off-putting image of how they are handling the situation. Working with foreign actors to dispel corruption and trafficking is extremely important, however, it cannot be at the expense of forming progressive immigration policy within the United States itself.