Ocasio Cortez criticizes US Vice President Kamala Harris for urging residents in Guatemala not to travel to the border in order to attempt try to enter the United States illegally.
Washington, D.C. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called Vice President Kamala Harris’ comments on immigration “disappointing” after Harris told those in Guatemala considering crossing the border: “Do not come.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s comments, made from Washington, D.C., followed a discussion on the U.S. border that occurred Monday during a news conference between Vice President Harris and Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei. During the conference, Vice President Harris warned against illegal migration to the US, saying:
“I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come. Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our borders. If you come to our border, you will be turned back."
Harris prevailed on the audience to discourage those they know from leaving on this “extremely dangerous” journey. She added that there are legal methods which those in other countries can and should use if they desire to immigrate but that one of the administrations priorities is to discourage and prevent illegal migration to the U.S.
Ocasio-Cortez wasted no time in condemning the Vice President’s statements. In a tweet on Monday she remarked, “First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100 per cent legal method of arrival. 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.”
"What the vice president was simply conveying is that there's more work to be done," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday. "As we've said many times from here and from many forums before, we need more time to get the work done to ensure that asylum processing is where it should be."
President Biden added that Central Americans would be able to apply for asylum through Human and Health Services facilities located where they are.
Harris has been given the difficult task by President Biden of controlling a surge in illegal migration at the U.S. southern border. Illegal migration at the US border approaches the highest level in more than 20 years. According to the White House's Customs and Border Protection, US border agents carried out 100,441 apprehensions or expulsions of migrants at the border with Mexico in February alone, which was the alone, the highest monthly total in two years.
US border authorities are also dealing with high levels of unaccompanied children making the crossing — nearly 19,000 crossed in March, the highest number on record. In May, five unaccompanied children, ages 7, 5, 3, 2, and 11 months from Honduras and Guatemala were found along the Texas-Mexico border, just one of thousands of examples,
Decades of poverty, violence and corruption in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have caused millions of people to attempt to enter the US. Two recent hurricanes have further worsened living conditions, while the pandemic has made the border situation even more complicated.
The Biden administration has announced $4 billion in aid over four years, in addition to $310 million in emergency Covid-19 aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The administration has also committed to $7.5 million to support entrepreneurs and innovators in Guatemala, as well as millions more in investments in affordable housing, agribusinesses and loans to small businesses in the country. Last week the White House stated the U.S. will be sending 500,000 doses of the COVID vaccine to Guatemala and 1 million doses to Mexico.
Harris’ focus, as stated, is on not just a stop gap measure to prevent illegal immigration, but addressing the root causes of the rates of illegal migrants attempting to enter the U.S. Harris said she is more interested in getting at what’s behind the effort to migrate in a way that produces tangible results that will change people’s lives rather than making grand gestures or statements.
Harris stated that people need a sense of hope that help is on the way and things are changing. She added, "It must be coupled with relationships of trust. It must be coupled with tangible outcomes, in terms of what we do as leaders to convince people that there is a reason to be hopeful about their future and the future of their children."
In addressing the root causes of migration, Harris has laid out an approach centered on creating better opportunities and living conditions in the region through humanitarian and economic aid. To that end, while in Guatemala, Harris announced a new program focused on creating education and economic opportunities for girls there, among other new initiatives.
Watch VP Harris lay out the administrations approach to immigration while responding to Ocasio-Cortez's critism:
The Vice President traveled to Mexico Tuesday to meet with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Hoping to increase cooperation with Mexico on immigration to the U.S., Harris told President Lopez Obrador that the United States and Mexico are "embarking on a new era." The meeting was also a chance to address policy changes regarding migration from Northern Triangle countries El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to the U.S.
During the meeting, Harris announced the U.S. will invest an additional $130 million in technical assistance to Mexico over the next three years while it puts in place labor legislation to support workers, improve harsh working conditions, and address child and forced labor. Harris also discussed a plan to create $250 million in new investment and sales in southern Mexico through boosting local agriculture and eco-tourism.
Harris and López Obrador committed to joining forces to exchange information and initiate measures to stop human trafficking and human smuggling operations, expand forensic capacity and cooperate to help solve over 82,000 cases of missing persons and disappearances in Mexico.
The Vice President returned to Washington, D.C. Wed. and remarked to the press, "Do I declare this trip a success? Yes I do. It is a success in terms of the pathway that is about progress. We have been successful in making progress."