Progressive New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is taking Vice President Kamala Harris to task over her comments Monday about undocumented migrants from Guatemala making the trek to the U.S.-Mexico border. Harris visited the Central American country this week during her first foreign trip as vice president. While speaking at a press conference with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, Harris told migrants, "Do not come." Rep. Ocasio-Cortez criticized the vice president over her comments, saying the United States played a role in destabilizing the country in the first place.
"I want to be clear to folks in the region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border," Harris said. "Do not come. Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border." Instead, she said it was important to investigate corruption and human trafficking in Central America and stated that "the goal of our work is to help Guatemalans find hope at home."
Ocasio-Cortez wasn't satisfied with the vice president's comments and even called them "disappointing to see" in a series of tweets. "First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival," she wrote. "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."
President Joe Biden put Harris in charge of affairs concerning the U.S.-Mexico border in March. The following month, the U.S. recorded more than 178,000 migrants trying to enter the country — a historic increase in migration from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, Bloomberg reports. But Central America has long been impacted by poverty and other forms of violence amid political instability, which the U.S. has fueled when supporting and assisting oppressive far-right regimes and coups d'état in the region.
Immigration rights advocates were critical of Harris's stance, which some said sounded like a continuation of former President Donald Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric and positions — particularly language like "securing the border." The Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, a non-profit that works with asylum seekers addressed the vice president in a tweet, writing, "seeking asylum is legal. Turning back asylum seekers is illegal, dangerous, & oftentimes sends them back to their deaths. Seeking asylum is a right under US and international law."
As for Ocasio-Cortez, she had a few suggestions for the Biden administration: "It would be helpful if the US would finally acknowledge its contributions to destabilization and regime change in the region," she said. "Doing so can help us change US foreign policy, trade policy, climate policy, & carceral border policy to address causes of mass displacement & migration."