Harris embraces role as head of anti-immigrant push in first foreign trip

Vice President Kamala Harris is back in Washington after a three-day trip to Guatemala and Mexico, her first visits abroad, where she delivered the Biden administration’s core message to the “folks in this region,” captured in one imperious soundbite: “Do not come.”

Speaking during a press conference after meeting privately with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei. Harris delivered the warning and added, “If you come to our border, you will be turned back.”

In March, President Joe Biden put Harris in charge of implementing his administration’s immigration policy which aims, like the Trump administration’s did, to restrict “irregular migration” from three Central American countries — Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – referred to collectively by U.S. officials as the Northern Triangle.

Although Biden entered the White House promising to reverse the previous administration’s “draconian immigration policies,” much remains the same.

Key to the Biden administration’s immigration policy, like previous Republican and Democratic administrations, is pouring money into regional military and police forces to physically block the flow of people from Central America. In April, Biden got Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras to increase the troop presence along their borders so as to violently enforce Washington’s immigration policies far away from the U.S. border. Agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), responsible for managing the network of internment camps along the U.S. border with Mexico, were sent to mentor them. Not unrelated, Biden’s budget requested $27.5 million in military financing for Central American governments.

For those that happen to make it past all these lines of police and soldiers in pursuit of safe refuge, the Biden administration has been busy expelling most of them. Since March of last year, officials at the U.S. border were handed unilateral authority under Title 42 of the U.S. Code to summarily expel families, adults and children without due process or access to asylum. Allegedly issued to combat COVID-19, Title 42 was the Trump administration’s workaround to implement a policy of mass expulsion at the border, using the pandemic as a pretext. Biden is clinging to this policy.

Eighty percent of all migrants are now being processed under Title 42. Of these, virtually all are summarily expelled. 637,000 have been expelled thus far, with 177,000 of those occurring during Biden’s first two months. Only 143 asylum-seekers have been let through to eventually make a case for sanctuary.

On her trip to Guatemala and Mexico, Vice President Harris tried to draw attention away from border militarization and mass expulsions with promises that the Biden team would “address the root causes” of migration from Central America. Biden’s $4 billion four-year plan, proposed to Congress as part of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, would disperse money based on who meets Washington-approved goals that favor transnational corporations and their profits. This is important for those in Washington that dream of taking manufacturing facilities out of China and sourcing cheaper labor in Central American nations.

In addition, Harris is responsible for organizing investment directly from the private sector. Twelve enterprises have signed on as “founding participants.” Heavy on the list are financial institutions that run microfinance programs, a favorite cure-all among liberal reformers. Microloans have led to an explosion of temporary, informal self-employment ventures. This makes corporate loan sharks rich, but doing nothing to eliminate structural underdevelopment and poverty imposed by global capitalism.

When Central American countries try to break from this model, they have to contend with U.S. sanctions, wars and coups — the true “root cause” of migration. The U.S. government and the major corporations that have been complicit in these crimes over the years should provide real aid to these nations as a form of reparations. But the imperial arrogance on full display with Harris’ visit — giving paternalistic lectures about “good government” while demanding the militarized, extraterritorial enforcement of U.S. border policy — is of no value to anyone other than the ruling elite of the United States.

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