Day 138: ‘Root Causes’ Goes On Tour.

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A trip to Guatemala and Mexico didn’t rescue Kamala Harris from questions about why she refuses to visit the U.S.-Mexico border—and she still hasn’t thought of an answer.

We’re Going To The Border! We’ve Been To The Border!

Harris continued her “root causes” tour in Guatemala on Monday, June 7, meeting with Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei, who has described part of their joint objective as building “prosperity walls” that will keep would-be migrants in their own countries. 

In remarks before their bilateral meeting, Harris spoke of “the significance of hope—the ability that we have as leaders to give the people a sense of hope that help is on the way and to then follow through, understanding that hope does not exist by itself.  It must be coupled with relationships of trust.”

Harris’ meeting with Giammattei produced four new initiatives: A Department of Justice (DOJ) anticorruption task force “to investigate and prosecute corruption cases with a nexus in the United States, Guatemala, and the region;” a DOJ-led “regional task force to identify, disrupt, and prevent migrant smuggling and human trafficking operations;” a $40 million, USAID-sponsored young women’s empowerment initiative; and a scheme to “Increase Economic Opportunity” by investing $48 million in Guatemalan entrepreneurship, affordable housing, agri-business, and lending to local micro, small, and medium businesses.

However, the notion that throwing money to the Northern Triangle will suffice for addressing the border crisis didn’t hold up well when Harris sat down with NBC’s Lester Holt for an interview set to air at the conclusion of her trip. 

Holt challenged Harris on why she hasn’t visited the border more than once, first inquiring why Harris wouldn’t want to gain the same perspective other Americans have on the issue.

“The question that has come up and you heard it here and you’ll hear it again I’m sure, is, ‘Why not visit the border? Why not see what Americans are seeing in this crisis?'” Holt asked.

“Well, we are going to the border,” Harris answered. “We have to understand that there’s a reason people are arriving at our border and ask what is that reason and then identify the problem so we can fix it.”

Holt asked more directly, “Do you have any plans to visit the border?”

Things began falling apart. Harris threw up her hands with an irritated expression and responded “At some point, you know, we are going to the border,” then, “We’ve been to the border. So this whole thing about the border. We’ve been to the border. We’ve been to the border.”

“YOU haven’t been to the border,” Holt said—prompting Harris to burst out, “And I haven’t been to Europe! . . . I don’t understand the point that you’re making.” Everyone else understood the point Holt was making: How can you be confident you’re doing a good job addressing the root causes of the problem if you haven’t actually looked at the problem? Given the choice between a quick jaunt to the border and perpetually facing this question, Harris has apparently chosen to plead ignorance and keep laughing it off. 

The face of root-causes diplomacy has many sides, however: In remarks delivered at Guatemala’s National Palace of Culture, Harris delivered a blunt message in somber tones for those considering making the trek to cross the U.S. border illegally: “Do not come. Do not come. . . I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back. So let’s discourage our friends, our neighbors, our family members from embarking on what is otherwise an extremely dangerous journey.” 

The remarks came after Giammattei expressed in a bilingual CBS interview that on immigration, he and Harris “are not on the same side of the coin. It is obvious” and revealed that “we asked the United States government to send more of a clear message to prevent more people from leaving.” 


Staff Writer

The National Pulse is a part of the American Principles Project.