Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg through Getty
In her first 5 months in workplace, Vice President Kamala Harris has realized a minimum of one essential lesson about immigration: You can run to the border, however you may’t run from the border.
That’s as a result of sooner or later the border will find you. That’s very true if you’re a U.S. elected official in 2021, whether or not you’re pandering to white nativists who wish to hold out Central American refugees, or Latino activists who wish to let extra of them in.
This week, the border discovered Harris. The California Democrat — who by no means confirmed a lot curiosity in immigration whereas representing a border state in the U.S. Senate — lastly made it to the U.S.-Mexico border. Harris paid a fast go to to a U.S. Customs Border Patrol central processing facility in El Paso, Texas. There, she acquired a briefing from officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Later, the Vice President met with immigrant advocates to listen to their issues earlier than leaving “el chuco.”
That’s what the locals name El Paso — this gateway from Mexico which served, all through the twentieth Century, as Mexican Americans’ model of Ellis Island. The nickname is rumored to stem from the Pachuco zoot go well with model that’s believed to have originated in the El Paso space in the 1930’s.
My grandfather wasn’t a zoot suiter. He was a farm employee who lived a hand-scrabble life in Central California. His model of the American Dream handed via el chuco as he entered the United States from Chihuahua as a boy. He and his household got here throughout The Mexican Revolution which lasted from 1910-1920, and which means all of them got here legally as a result of an individual couldn’t come illegally till after The Immigration Act of 1924.
There are tens of millions of great tales out right here in the Southwest. They star Mexican Americans, and so they’re set in locations like El Paso, Las Cruces, New Mexico, Tucson, Arizona, or Las Vegas, Nevada. These are my peeps, and the solely factor they like to share greater than their meals and their hospitality is their tales.
That’s why it’s unhappy that it took every little thing however an Act of Congress to get Harris to go to the Southwest — and, particularly, a locale she’s been avoiding like the coronavirus: the U.S.-Mexico border. She has been beneath stress to make the trek to the worldwide boundary — sure, by Republicans but additionally by Democrats — since March 24. That’s when President Biden stated the following at a White House assembly on immigration: “I’ve asked her, the VP, today — because she’s the most qualified person to do it — to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle and the countries that help — are going to need help in stemming the movement of so many folks, stemming the migration to our southern border.”
To today, three months later, it’s arduous to know if Biden was conscious that he was handing his #2 a political and public relations time bomb. As Biden stated that day, he received an identical project from former President Barack Obama when Biden served as vice chairman.
What Harris appeared to grasp intuitively was that no good may come from an ungainly photograph-op of the Vice President of the United States standing, with a clueless expression on her face, in entrance of a storage containers holding dozens of refugee children.
That’s the scene this doubtless future Democratic presidential candidate was determined to keep away from. That’s what took Harris so lengthy to get to the border, and why her aides have tried frantically over the previous couple of months to vary the topic. Team Harris has been determined to spin her migration project as residing south of the border in faraway nations like Guatemala. They argued that that’s the place she needed to tackle the “root causes” of the migration crisis.
Yes, as a result of Harris’ current foray there went so nicely, didn’t it?
Root causes, huh? For many Guatamalans — who’ve already suffered lots because of violent gangs, hurricanes, poverty and corruption — having Harris present up just lately solely to instruct the determined folks down there to “not come” to the United States was in all probability as painful as a root canal.
In one respect, the stalling tactic backfired. Harris clearly didn’t wish to draw consideration to the border, and particularly to not her being at the border. But by laying aside a go to — and even pushing again in opposition to liberal journalists who hounded her about when they need to count on one — she ensured that, when she finally received round to visiting the border, it will qualify as a serious information occasion full with a media circus.
But, in one other method, Harris’ nice border stall labored out fairly nicely. It gave the Department of Homeland Security — which was by no means outfitted to run day-care facilities for 1000’s of migrant youth — sufficient time to get out of the enterprise of housing the almost 20,000 unaccompanied minors who’ve been apprehended at the border in the first half of this yr. Several weeks in the past, DHS handed that sizzling potato over to The Department of Health and Human Services, which has dispersed the minors to makeshift holding services throughout the Southwest.
So, by the time Harris arrived for her tour of the U.S.-Mexico this week — with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in tow — there was nary a minor in sight. Mission achieved.
Of course, timing isn’t every little thing. Sometimes, avoiding messy political scenes is like promoting actual property: location, location, location.
The essential cause that the Border Patrol facility in El Paso was so secure, safe, and sanitized, was as a result of it was the fallacious Border Patrol facility. The actual motion is 800 miles away in the Rio Grande Valley. If Harris had been politically courageous sufficient to go to the U.S.-Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas — the place you discover the brokers who act as the first responders to the migration disaster — she would have gotten a primary-hand look and left with an entire completely different perspective.
Think about it. It’s fireplace season. God forbid, there’s a wildfire in Arizona. Harris would possibly attempt to survey the harm by heading to Alaska.
But Harris’ glorious border journey was by no means about assessing the extent of the migration disaster or gaining a special perspective on the immigration situation. It wasn’t even about discovering the Southwest, and listening to the tales of these Mexican Americans who dwell there — about 70% of whom are registered Democrats, largely as a result of White Republicans out right here vacillate between loopy and creepy in relation to Latinos and immigration.
Harris’ journey was all about politics. It was about shutting up these Republicans, and a few Democrats, who’ve badgered her over the previous couple of months about not seeing the border. And it was about taking away a punchline from former President Donald Trump who — apparently unable to withstand the racist catnip of issuing catcalls about immigration — is scheduled to go to a special a part of the border subsequent week.
If Harris hadn’t lastly made her compulsory go to — even when was late, and to the fallacious location — Trump would have had a area day attacking her for ducking out on what was actually at all times going to be an important a part of project to assist alleviate the migration disaster. We can count on Trump to assault Harris anyway, however now the barbs received’t carry as a lot sting.
It took loads to introduce Kamala Harris to the border, and the border to Kamala Harris. No worries. Down the highway, they’re certain to satisfy once more.