Maybe Kamala Harris should have gone to the border instead. Joe Biden put the Vice President in charge of handling the migrant crisis, but later claimed he meant that Harris would lead the diplomatic effort to resolve it. Not only has Harris not improved matters, she made it worse — both abroad and domestically.
The debacle began with protests on Harris’ arrival, but it didn’t get any better with her main diplomatic mission. Guatemala president Alejandro Giammattei accused Biden and Harris of creating the crisis at the border by broadcasting “welcome” messages to his people:
Giammattei said in a CBS News interview that aired Sunday that the Biden administration is to blame for sparking the migration crisis.
The Guatemalan president said he and Harris “are not on the same side of the coin” on migration.
“We asked the United States government to send more of a clear message to prevent more people from leaving,” Giammattei said.
When Biden took office, “The message changed too: ‘We’re going to reunite families, we’re going to reunite children,’” he said. “The very next day, the coyotes were here organizing groups of children to take them to the United States.”
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 29, 2017
That’s precisely what Giammattei meant in blaming Biden and Harris, who continued proclaiming that progressive pablum while not realizing that people in Central America took it seriously. The VP tried recover by warning Guatemalans “do not come” in a speech, while at the same time insulting Giammattei over the issue of corruption. Note Giammattei’s response at the end of this Reuters report:
“I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border,” Harris said during a press conference with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei Monday. “Do not come. Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border.” …
“There are legal methods by which migration can and should occur, but we, as one of our priorities, will discourage illegal migration,” Harris continued. “And I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back. So let’s discourage our friends, our neighbors, our family members, from embarking on what is otherwise an extremely dangerous journey, where in large part the only people who benefit are coyotes.”
Too little, too late, although it turned out to be too much for progressive gadfly Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She called Harris’ discouragement “disappointing,” and blamed the US for creating the migrant wave in the first place:
Later Monday, Ocasio-Cortez said of Harris’ speech: “This is disappointing to see.”
“First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival,” she said.
“Second, 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.”
Once again, we have to marvel at the lack of strategic thinking in this administration. It’s tough to discern what precisely Biden had in mind in sending Harris to Guatemala. He needs Guatemala’s cooperation and as much unity within his own party as Biden can muster. Harris appears to have torched bridges in both directions with this trip. To the extent that the “do not come” speech changed anything, it could have easily been accomplished at home.
And let’s not forget that it took nearly three months for Harris to do this much with her assigned border-crisis portfolio. The White House and Biden don’t have a plan, not even after five months dealing with this crisis, other than to react whenever criticized — and react ineptly.