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Vice President Kamala Harris’ Charm Offensive Turned Mostly Offensive

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez actually was being kind when she described Vice President Kamala Harris’ “Do not come” message to undocumented Central American migrants as “disappointing.” “Embarrassing” would have been closer to the point.

On her first foreign trip as vice president, at a news conference with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, Harris spoke about such “root causes” as crime, poverty and corruption that drive the recent tide of disparate migrants from the “Northern Triangle” of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in Central America.

On behalf of the administration, the former California senator offered new economic aid and programs to partner with government and civil society to investigate corruption and human trafficking and a future in which Guatemalans and others can find “hope at home.”

But that was overshadowed in the news coverage and public conversations by her blunt and, in tone, callous declaration that, “I want to be clear to folks in the region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border. Do not come. Do not come.”

She arrived as a bridge-builder but turned into a traffic cop, rolling up the national welcome mat without even bothering with an exclusion for those seeking legal asylum from horrendous violence. That was too much for Ocasio-Cortez, who tweeted that Harris’ comments were “disappointing to see.”

Not surprisingly, the Bronx-based voice of the Democrats’ left-progressive wing compared Harris’ position with blaming the victims.

 

“First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival,” she tweeted. “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.”

And in terms of tone, Harris made bad matters worse in the way she tried to deflect questions from NBC’s Lester Holt about why she was not including a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in her trip.

The question was predictable, since visiting the border had become a litmus test among conservatives and daily fare in right-wing media. Yet Harris responded with a tone of annoyed surprise.

“And I haven’t been to Europe,” she said.

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