Immigration has proven easy to demagogue, but difficult to address constructively. History suggests that becoming the face of America’s immigration policy is a bad deal for Harris. It is just too easy to look ineffective, which is terrible branding for a presidential hopeful.
Ineffectiveness isn’t the only possible trap for Harris. By launching mass deportations, Obama earned the ire of a number of Latino voters, an burden that carried over to Biden’s 2020 campaign. During the primaries, those voters overwhelmingly supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Even after Biden had the party’s nomination wrapped up, activists warned that he needed to seek forgiveness for Obama’s actions.
“Biden needs to be accountable,” Joe Enriquez Henry, vice president of the Midwestern region of League of United Latin American Citizens, told Politico in July. Biden did win the Latino vote against Trump, but by a smaller margin than expected. His campaign did a notoriously poor job of reaching out to those voters, but it’s not out of the question that the Obama-era deportations remained a factor. While there is no sign that Biden plans to carry out deportations on a similar scale, Harris must surely be aware of the potential to alienate a key constituency she’ll need for her own White House run.