The Corner

Immigration

Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Guatemala Edition

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at a news conference in Guatemala City, Guatemala, June 7, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Reuters )

In Guatemala yesterday, Vice President Harris begged the people of Central America to stop causing her administration such political problems at the border. She managed to get through her speech without breaking out into one of her cringe-inducing laughs, but I don’t expect Guatemalans were likewise able to keep straight faces. Here’s what she said on the issue:

“I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United State-Mexico border: Do not come. Do not come. . . .

She said it twice, so she must be serious!

The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border. . . .

Cue guffaws.

There are legal methods by which migration can and should occur. But we, as one of our priorities, will discourage illegal migration. . . .

Where, among their priorities, is that? And how, exactly, are they discouraging illegal migration? (And isn’t that supposed to be “undocumented”?)

And I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back. . . .

Here the guffaws turn into belly-laughs. She “believes”? Maybe if she’d visited the border, she’d know that this is poppycock, as wave after wave of rafts cross the river unimpeded.

So let’s discourage our friends, our neighbors, or family members from embarking on what is otherwise an extremely dangerous journey.”

She said “dangerous” twice, as well, so it must really be true.

Kidding aside, people respond to actions, not words. When all children and teens traveling “alone,” and virtually all adults traveling with children are released into the U.S. with a de facto guarantee that they will never be made to leave, more will come. Only by changing that fact can the flow stanched.

That would require returning the successful policies of the Trump administration, especially the Remain in Mexico program. But Trump’s approach must, by definition, be wrong, so embracing it is inconceivable.

Guatemalan president Giammattei, like his countrymen, knows perfectly well what caused the Biden Border Crisis: Regarding the change in administrations, he told CBS News, “The message changed too: ‘We’re going to reunite families, we’re going to reunite children’. The very next day, the coyotes were here organizing groups of children to take them to the United States.”

Giammattei added, “We asked the United States government to send more of clear message to prevent more people from leaving.” But such a clear message can only be sent by plugging the loopholes that incentivize mass illegal immigration, not with photo ops.

But photo ops were the main point of Harris’s trip. Even the folks in the White House can’t seriously believe that a speech by the vice president, or even some more aid money, is going to make any difference at the border. The real purpose of the trip was twofold: First, to create the impression that the administration was doing something about the border emergency. Despite the disdain of those of us on the right, President Biden’s approval ratings have been holding up reasonably well, with one exception: immigration. The border is Biden’s main political vulnerability right now, and it’s imperative that the administration be seen addressing the problem (without actually doing anything to stop it, which would lead to a revolt among Democrats in Congress).

The second purpose of the trip is to give Vice President Harris the appearance of foreign-policy experience. When she runs on 2024, she’ll need diplomatic activity to point to as evidence that she’s ready for the big job, and that will require more than a vice president’s customary role of attending the funerals of foreign leaders. And when the numbers at the border dip in the summer, as is likely because of the brutal heat down there, expect the White House to declare Harris’s efforts a success.

At least until the numbers start rising again in the fall.

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