Vice President Kamala Harris told Guatemalans during her visit to the Central American nation on Monday that they should not attempt to cross the U.S. border and would be turned away if they did.
“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 the dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border — do not come, do not come,” she said, according to a Fox News report.
“The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border,” she said.
“There are legal methods by which migration can and should occur but we, as one of our priorities, will discourage illegal migration and I believe if you come to our border you will be turned back.”
The words came as a surprise to many, as the vice president’s words contrasted the policy changes of President Joe Biden’s administration. After taking office, Biden signed executive orders to stop construction of the border wall along the nation’s southern border and ended most deportations for 100 days.
In addition, Biden reinstated the Obama era catch-and-release policy that allowed those apprehended for illegal immigration to stay in the U.S. until a hearing.
Harris has offered a new message for the nation’s southern neighbor, but the words are unlikely to stop the surge at the nation’s border.
More than 178,000 illegal immigrants crossed in April, according to the Fox News report.
The change sounds refreshing in some ways. Conservatives have long hoped the Biden administration would change its tune and slow down the flood of illegal immigrants crossing the nation’s southern border.
However, the words will remain weak unless Border Patrol is given the resources and authority to stop those crossing into the nation illegally. Guatemala’s president said during an interview released by CBS just prior to her visit that as soon as Biden said he would reunite families and not turn away children, the “coyotes” showed up ready for business in his country.
With the new message, business might slow a little for these smugglers, but it’s unlikely to stop.
The “root causes” approach by Harris simply seeks to invest money and resources into Guatemala to keep more people from leaving. But that’s not how people decide whether to stay or go. The first step must be a secure border. If the border remains an open door, people will continue to enter in massive numbers. The Biden administration must turn off the hose if it wants to stop the flood.
In addition, addressing “root causes” does little to change the situation in the short term. Few everyday families in Guatemala will directly benefit right away from the investment proposals Harris made.
Even if Harris was successful and maybe illegal immigration lowered by 10 percent, it would not compare with simply allowing Border Patrol officers, and maybe even the National Guard, permission to shut down and arrest every single person who seeks to illegally enter the nation. When people know they can’t get away with it, the numbers will stop.