Was VP Harris right to tell Guatemalan migrants 'do not come?'
- On Monday, June 7, 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the increase in migrants during her meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei saying, “I want to emphasize that the goal of our work is to help Guatemalans find hope at home… At the same time, 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.”
- Vice President Harris announced the US would provide 500,000 coronavirus vaccines to Guatemala along with the initiation of a women’s empowerment program to encourage an economic boost in the country.
- On Monday, June 7, 2021, the Supreme Court voted ruled in a decision regarding foreign nationals who reside in the US under the special protections program of Temporary Protected Status from being able to apply for permanent residence in the United States.
- According to US Customs and Border Protection, the number of migrant apprehensions have been increasing for the last 10 years, and reached a high of 178,622 in April 2021.
VP Harris should not have told Guatemalan migrants not to come to the states. These migrants have a legal right to seek asylum, the US has a moral and ethical obligation to help them, and there is help available that these migrants could receive. Under US and international law, migrants have the legal right to seek asylum at the US border. As further expressed by the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, 'Turning back asylum seekers is illegal, dangerous, and oftentimes sends them back to their deaths.'
The US represents hope to desperate people around the world who remember the welcoming promise of the Statue of Liberty and still believe in the best that the US can be. Telling these desperate children and families there is essentially no hope for them to come mocks and destroys the great legacy of this glorious and profoundly American icon. The US is also partly responsible for the destabilization of Guatemala alongside the entire Latin American region. We must be willing to immediately help with the forced displacement of so many migrants that this destabilization has caused. Telling these migrants 'do not come' implies there is no help the US can offer either. Even if the US government has shamefully been unable yet to meet the desperate need of these migrants, there are many private charitable organizations and Americans who are still willing to help. During challenging times, it is easy to ignore the desperate pain and suffering of others. Yet, the US must legally, morally, and ethically still be willing to offer hope and help.
Vice President Kamala Harris' comments on Sunday in Guatemala City did not appear to have any ill-intent. Although Harris insisted that illegal migrants stay away from the border, her general statement was taken completely out of context. While Harris discredited unauthorized immigration, she was not frowning upon immigration as a whole.
Harris only discouraged migrants from attempting to flee to the United States illegally. Harris did not make any disparaging remarks towards these migrants; she simply insisted they take the legal route. Harris and others in the Biden administration have actually made significant efforts to develop a more coherent immigration process for those who wish to come to the United States. They plan to reevaluate certain travel bans and security procedures enacted during the Trump administration that diminished the number of people migrating to the United States.
Harris' remarks come after a serious influx of Central American sexual trafficking made its way to the United States. Since 2017, sexual trafficking cases in Guatemala rise at an average of 4% per year. A vital cause of this trafficking is believed to be due to a lack of border security across Central America, the exact problem that Harris is doing her best to avoid.
Harris later announced she would be making an effort to investigate corruption cases in the Guatemalan government while hoping to boost the nation's economy. Harris announced the assembly of a task force intended to deal with the growing concern of human trafficking across Guatemala. All of this points to her compassion for Guatemalans, not her disdain.