AOC condemns Kamala Harris for telling Guatemalan migrants not to come to US

The progressive New York representative Alexandria Oscasio-Cortez has criticized Vice-President Kamala Harris, for saying undocumented migrants from Guatemala should not come to the US.

On her first foreign trip as vice-president, Harris visited Guatemala on Monday. At a press conference with Guatemala’s president, Alejandro Giammattei, the former California senator spoke about investigating corruption and human trafficking in Central America, and described a future where Guatemalans could find “hope at home”.

But she also had a clear message that undocumented Guatemalan migrants would not find solace at the US border under the Biden administration.

“I want to be clear to folks in the region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border," sy het gese. “Do not come. Do not come.”

Later Monday, Oscasio-Cortez condemned Harris on Twitter, calling her comments “disappointing to see”.

“First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival,” said the congresswoman, an influential voice on the Democratic left since her upset win in a 2018 primary and widely known as AOC.

“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.”

Several human rights groups also spoke out.

Rachel Schmidtke, Latin America advocate at the non-profit Refugees International, gesê: “We continue to urge the Biden administration to build policies that recognize that many Guatemalans will need to seek protection until the long-standing drivers of forced displacement are addressed and realign its message to the Guatemalan people to reflect America’s commitment to the right to seek protection internationally.”

The Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, a nonprofit that works with asylum seekers, getwiet: “Kamala Harris, seeking asylum is legal. Turning back asylum seekers is illegal, dangerous, & oftentimes sends them back to their deaths. Seeking asylum is a right under US and international law.”

Despite Joe Biden moving to undo Trump-era restrictions at the border, including instituting changes to the asylum process, Harris’s speech underlined a continued stance of turning back undocumented migrants.

Central America has long been affected by poverty and violence, amid entrenched cycles of political instability partly caused by criminal elites. Experts contend the US has often aided oppressive regime. Despite the litany of dangers migrants often face when traveling north, the journey is often safer than remaining at home.

“People are leaving because the corrupt governments (supported by the US) have tolerated and encouraged the growth of these criminal organizations,” said Jeff Faux, founder of the Economic Policy Institute, in an interview with USA Today.

In April, according to CNN, meer as 178,000 migrants arrived at the US-Mexico border, the highest one-month total in two decades.

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