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Editorial: Harris doesn't deserve blame for stating the obvious to migrants

Editorial: Harris doesn't deserve blame for stating the obvious to migrants

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Progressives are unloading on the Biden administration after Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a stern but necessary message to Central American migrants: “Do not come.” Welcoming messages of compassion might make American liberals feel good, but immigrants need to hear the blunt truth about the legal challenges and dangers ahead. Better they hear it from someone like Harris than learn it the hard way.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted her disappointment with Harris, asserting that “seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival” and stating, “We can’t help set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for fleeing.”

The United States played a heavy role in the civil wars that wrought upheaval across Central America in the 1970s and ’80s — as did Cuba and the Soviet Union. But it’s a reach, four decades later, to blame the United States for setting the Central American house on fire. The region’s own corrupt governments and police are far more responsible for today’s hardship.

Harris delivered exactly the kinds of remarks Central American leaders needed to hear. “We will look to root out corruption wherever it exists. That has been one of our highest priorities in terms of the focus we have put here,” she said after meeting Monday with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, who has his own record of corruption-enabling practices to contend with.

He’s hardly alone. El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua have, for years, ranked alongside Guatemala among the world’s worst performers in Transparency.org’s list of governments that fail to hold their politicians and businesses accountable for corrupt activities. A failure to stem corruption is precisely why the United States is handcuffed in its ability to curtail mass migration by funding Central American projects to create jobs, encourage entrepreneurship and reform the police and judiciaries.

The solution to this problem is not at the U.S. border; it’s in the migrants’ home countries. Unless they feel safe, knowing that drug gangs won’t shoot up their houses or kidnap their children, and unless they can find work that pays a survivable wage, these surges of mass migration will only continue.

The leaders of those countries and Mexico need to hear the most blunt and stern messaging the Biden administration can dish out: America is losing patience with nations whose leaders abuse American goodwill and who pocket the aid that’s supposed to help their people.

As for the tough words Harris delivered to the migrants themselves, the Biden administration is simply stating the obvious: The trek across Mexico is far too dangerous to attempt, given the high probability of encountering murderous criminal gangs, corrupt police and human-trafficking organizations along the way. And the chances of a successful U.S. border crossing are minimal. So the message is precisely on target: Do not come.

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