Vice President Kamala Harris is leaving for Central America this week on her first solo diplomatic mission — and she needs the mission to go well if she wants to avoid the perception that she isn’t handling her responsibility at the border well.
It is just as likely, however, that the mission will backfire on the vice president and leave her holding the bag on an increasingly untenable situation, according to experts in the field of immigration studies who spoke with The Washington Times.
As the Times notes, Harris wants to give Northern Triangle countries — Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador — as well as others in the region a total of $4 billion dollars in exchange for help stemming the number of migrants trying to cross the border into America.
She has reasoned that poverty is one of the driving forces behind the immigration crisis, and she proposes to fix it by flooding poorer nations with cash. But will it work?
Experts are skeptical
According to the Times, executive director at the Center for Immigration Studies Mark Krikorian pointed out that when NAFTA was signed in 1992, illegal immigration into the U.S. surged higher than it had ever been before, even though Mexico saw individuals’ incomes rise as a result of the agreement.
And policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute Camille Le Coz told the Times that boosting people’s incomes can just give them the money they need to make the journey to America and what they think will be a better life.
“The relationship between job creation and employment and migration is very complicated,” she said. “This can really backfire.”
Keeping expectations low
For her part, Harris is downplaying the expectations for her first trip abroad. “It’s going to be an honest and real conversation,” she told reporters before the trip, as the Times reported. “I’m there to listen as much as I am to share perspective.”
She has already begun to build a relationship with Mexico and Guatemala, but relations with Honduras and El Salvador seem more tenuous.
Harris is trying to get American businesses to invest more in those areas and held a meeting to that end last month. Biden has also set aside thousands of guest worker visas for people from those nations, reports note.
Biden, for his part, seems to think the surge has more to do with bad conditions in the home countries than favorable conditions like relaxed rules and reversed policies in the U.S., but many think he is wrong about that assumption.
“I’m skeptical that this talk about root causes and what have you will yield anything useful in Central America, but just for the sake of argument let’s say it will work — it’s actually an argument for toughening border controls, not a substitute for it,” Krikorian told the Times. It’s also true that the root causes did not suddenly get worse when Biden came into office, but notably, that is when illegal migration rates soared.