OAKLAND — Latino lawmakers in Vice President Kamala Harris’ home state reproached her Wednesday for seeking to discourage migration.
The vice president triggered blowback on the left this week for pointedly saying “do not come” to Central American migrants thinking about entering the U.S. though Mexico. While Harris’ comment was consistent with the Biden administration’s stance, critics that included House Democrats said the vice president was discouraging lawful migration.
The California Latino Legislative Caucus echoed those rebukes in a response to Harris, saying in a statement that “seeking asylum in the United States is not only legal but a matter of life and death for many.”
“In keeping with past precedent we should not discourage asylum seekers from seeking a better life. They are doing what they need to do to survive,” the caucus’ leaders said in a statement. “As such, we urge the Biden-Harris administration and Congress to follow the moral and legal imperative to create a process to allow all asylum seekers to come to this country as a part of a larger, long-overdue comprehensive reform of our immigration system.”
The Latino caucus has become a force in California politics as the state’s Latino electorate has steadily grown in recent decades. The state Legislature includes numerous lawmakers who are the children of immigrants or emigrated to the United States earlier in life.
The responses to Harris’ first trip abroad as vice president have underscored the political intractability of the migration issue. Even as Democrats and allies have accused Harris of taking an overly harsh stance, Republicans have pummeled Harris for downplaying the importance of visiting America’s southern border — something she has not done since entering the White House — and argued the Biden administration’s more lenient immigration policies have encouraged more migration, pointing to comments from Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei.
Harris emphasized during her trip that migration stems from a complex mix of factors that includes weak civic institutions and a lack of economic opportunity in Central America.
There is “not going to be a quick fix,” she told NBC’s Lester Holt, adding “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.”