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'Do not come': Kamala Harris' three words to Guatemalans stir debate and backlash

Cindy Carcamo and Andrea Castillo, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Praeli said she worries the Biden administration has fallen into “the trap that the GOP has laid out for them.” She disagreed that Harris had misspoken. But she thinks the message will backfire.

“The ‘do not come’ message in my view is a political calculation that they have made,” she said. “Investment in root causes does not change our country’s legal and moral obligations to people fleeing violence and persecution and seeking safety at our borders. It’s not a quid pro quo.”

Overall, some analysts said, Harris’ stance on immigration enforcement didn’t differ notably from that of many previous administrations.

“I don’t think this should come as a surprise,” DeSipio said.

In a March interview, Biden also told migrants “don’t come over.” And some of his policies have advanced beyond that rhetoric.

Most significant in policy terms, the Biden administration has kept in place the Trump-era pandemic policy known as Title 42, one of the most controversial and restrictive immigration policies er implemented at the U.S.-Mexico border.

 

The policy, which relies on an obscure 1944 public health statute, closed the border to all nonessential travel and authorized the expulsion of asylum seekers without due process, making migrant children and parents easy prey for criminal groups waiting just on the other side.

Immigration advocates have pointed to the continuation of Title 42 as evidence that, despite its less abrasive language, the Biden White House hasn’t broken with Trump’s punitive approach.

But if that was the message her critics took from Harris’ visit to Guatemala City, it remains to be seen whether her words ultimately will carry any more weight than did similar ones by the previous president.

“Trump said ‘don’t come’ very forcefully ‘and if you do come we’ll separate you from your children,’ and that still doesn’t stop people,” Suro said.

“Saying don’t come, it hasn’t work so far.”

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