Kamala Harris ‘“ Don’t come ”message was a political failure

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It may seem that there are few policy areas where Democrats and Republicans are more divided than immigration. While former President Trump let xenophobia and cruelty towards migrants rule his political decisions, President Biden has promised to implement policies that « promote inclusion, citizenship, and … include the full participation of the newest Americans in our democracy ». And yet the sonic gap has not been repeated in many areas of content.

While the Biden government, for example, has done a lot to expand the capacity for resettlement of refugees to the number of unaccompanied migrants in custody to the border police reduce, it has also closed the border under Title 42, which blocks the border for « minor » travel for public health purposes, rejection of families and individuals (including asylum seekers). It has also continued to detain immigrants, and has actually seen the number of detainees rise since March. Eventually, Biden plans to continue militarizing the border, as evidenced by his administration’s $ 1.2 billion request for border infrastructure (compared to, for example, just $ 345 million for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service to obtain naturalization and clean up asylum residues).

It is in this context that we need to look at Vice President Kamala Harris’s trip to Guatemala and Mexico earlier this week. Harris ‘first international trip underscored the government’s desire to participate in the“ causes ”of migration. In Guatemala, Harris announced that the US would support an anti-corruption body that Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei has slandered. In Mexico, meanwhile, she and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced plans to work together on security, curb Central American migration through development, new US investments in Mexican agriculture, and assistance in implementing new Mexican labor laws.

In the US However, these substantial agreements were overshadowed by Harris’ remarks in Guatemala, where she clearly told would-be migrants, « Don’t come ». Of course, the line has been heavily criticized by policymakers and right-wing groups of immigrants, who rightly saw it as a violation of U.S. commitments to asylum seekers and as 180 against many of the Biden team’s campaign promises. In addition, as many on social media pointed out, it took quite a bit of chutzpah before a U.S. government official urged Central Americans fleeing danger or hardship not to come to the U.S. if the country is at least partially responsible for creating the conditions violence and deprivation are responsible first.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki later made it clear that Harris was merely trying to protect migrants from the dangerous journey. However, this trip is in large part dangerous because the US has militarized the border and eclipsed migrants. When it came to the dangerous journey, this could be solved by easing migration restrictions and demilitarizing the border.

Aside from their hypocrisy or impudence, Harris’ comments are troubling because they signal a different way in which the Biden government advocates the continuity of immigration policy. To be fair to Trump, the call began for people not to come, not with his administration, but with President Bill Clinton’s policy of « prevention through deterrence ». Back then, the US government made it difficult to cross into the US by adding more urban ports of entry in the hope that migrants would be deterred from coming on the much more dangerous routes they would have to take. Judging by the fact that migration continued (and reached its historic peak in the early 2000s), this policy failed on its own terms; judging from the fact that it resulted in the deaths of at least 7,800 migrants, it was also a moral failure.

Since then, various administrations have tried to prevent migrants from entering by various means, be it by expanding immigration detention or financing the militarization of Mexico’s southern border. Simply telling migrants not to come does not mean making migration more dangerous in a targeted manner, but is motivated by the impulse. However, all the evidence available shows that deterrence doesn’t work. Given that most people come to flee violence or economic deprivation, how could their decision be changed by a small increase in migration costs?

Harris ‘Comments are also a political failure. She admits to government critics that the US can no longer accept migrants, including asylum seekers. This is dangerous because it makes it difficult to argue for increasing routes to legal immigration. As the economist Michael Clemens has argued, however, the restrictive US immigration laws are a major cause of irregular migration, as people will migrate regardless of the legal channels that exist for them. The lack of regular and open ways to get here makes it almost certain that those who want to come will do so without legal permission. Increasing avenues for legal immigration will only be achieved if the Biden government stops addressing immigration as a problem. Stop telling people not to come is a great way to go in that direction. It would be even better to give them more ways to come safely and legally.

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