Similarly, when Harris warned about how perilous the trip north is, she was stating the obvious — at least for people in Central America. They do not need to be told of the dangers involved in trekking to the border; the risks are well-known throughout the region. People undertake the trip out of fear and desperation.
In the future, instead of falling back on the message of “don’t come,” Harris would be well advised to remind her global audience that asylum is a legal right. It is a right subject to final adjudication by US immigration authorities, and it is complicated. But Americans are capable of understanding nuanced issues, and grasping that we have legal and humanitarian obligations to our neighbors.
In reality, Harris’ words were likely not intended for Central Americans. They were probably meant to preclude any Republican charges that the Biden administration is for “open borders.”
Such a visit to the border probably would have been meaningless. These trips, often taken by Republican lawmakers, amount to little more than a silly photo op. For conservative lawmakers, they are a popular way to remind their base of the “border crisis” and to signal that migration is a threat to the country.
Given that the purpose of Harris’ trip was to address the root causes of migration, the notion of a trip to the border this week made no sense.
Funny, under the previous administration, government neophyte Jared Kushner was tasked with bringing about peace in the Middle East and he wasn’t subjected to as much acute scrutiny.
It may well be that as a woman of color and a daughter of immigrants Harris is being held to an impossible standard for success. Multiple administrations have wrestled with problems at the border, and people expect Harris to solve it in a matter of months?
Another would be to funnel more aid to Central America through non-profit groups and non-governmental organizations, instead of corrupt governments.
Finally, the administration needs to come up with more succinct messaging to counter the GOP’s very successful and inaccurate fearmongering. It is time for the Biden administration to make a firm break with the failed, inhumane policies of the past– and that will ensure more support from progressives.
Vice President Harris has a rare opportunity to help bring about change in Central America. But actions will always speak louder than words. Her work will only be effective when she is advocating smart, compassionate policies.