We’ve been told not infrequently that President Joe Biden and his administration plan to deal with illegal immigration by striking at the “root causes” of the problem.
You probably thought you knew what those were: joblessness, drug cartels, gang violence, government corruption, that sort of thing. Given the Biden administration’s belief that climate change is a part of every conversation, you could reliably throw that in there, too.
There’s a bit more to it than that, according to Vice President Kamala Harris. And wouldn’t you know, those “root causes” just happen to hit upon a whole raft of liberal talking points, including a claim that violence against LGBT people is part of what’s driving illegal immigration from Central America.
On Monday, Harris hosted a teleconference with Alejandro Giammattei, the president of Guatemala. There were short, canned remarks before the work of the bilateral meeting began — and yet they managed to be telling when it came to just how clueless the current administration is about what’s behind the border crisis.
Today I hosted Guatemala President Giammattei for a virtual meeting. We’re working together to address the immediate needs of the Guatemalan people, deliver relief, and deepen cooperation on migration. Over time I’m confident we can build a foundation of hope for a better future. pic.twitter.com/ryXyoCZLEA
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) April 27, 2021
Not all of it was piffle. Harris wasn’t inaccurate when she said, “The people of Guatemala have been suffering greatly because of the recent hurricanes, the persistent drought and, of course, the damage from COVID-19.
“And as we have discussed, these are the acute factors that, in many ways, are causing people to leave their homes despite the fact that they would probably prefer to stay.”
Then things went a bit south.
“There are also longstanding issues that are often called the ‘root causes’ of immigration,” Harris said.
“We are looking at the issue of poverty and the lack, therefore, of economic opportunities; the issue of extreme weather conditions and the lack of climate adaptation; as well as corruption and the lack of good governance; and violence against women, indigenous people, LGBTQ people and Afro-descendants.”
Harris also announced Monday that the administration was sending hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Central America.
“In light of the dire situation and acute suffering faced by millions of people in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, Vice President Harris announced an additional $310 million in U.S. government support for humanitarian relief and to address food insecurity,” the White House said in a news release.
Here’s why I mention this: What do you think made Giammattei more confident Harris was going to help him? Was it the $310 million in aid? Or was it her promise to help him tackle the root issues of violence against LGBT people and Afro-descendants in Guatemala?
By point of reference, Guatemala’s 2018 census lists 27,647 individuals who identify as Afro-descendants, Creole or Afro-mestizo in the country, a total of 0.19 percent of the population. A further 19,529 were Garífuna, described by the Minority Rights Group International as “an Afro-indigenous community located on the Atlantic Coast” of Guatemala. That’s a further 0.13 percent of the population.
When you combine the groups, they make up 0.32 percent of the population.
I’ll confess to being unfamiliar with the plight of Afro-descended people in Guatemala, although I think all individuals of moral bearing abhor any kind of violence directed at a racial group. However odious it might be, though, no violence perpetrated against less than a third of one-percent of a country’s population is a main driver of illegal immigration, or even a “root cause.”
In terms of LGBT rights, numbers are more difficult to come by in that department for obvious reasons, but this seemed a bit more like an American left-wing talking point than a substantive inducement to migration on par with gang violence, poverty and the Biden administration’s laxity on immigration policy.
In fact, one of the few people even tweeting about these remarks was a researcher for the LGBT organization Human Rights Watch:
So glad to hear @VP Harris reference the violence that #LGBT people face in #Guatemala, as well as indigenous ppl, afro-descendants, women, and other groups. She also appropriately highlights #poverty and #corruption as push factors of migration. https://t.co/4tQWf4N1Aq
— Cristian González Cabrera (@cristianfergo) April 26, 2021
I don’t know who wants, or would even countenance, violence against LGBT and Afro-descended individuals in Guatemala. If someone could solve that, great.
That’s not what Harris is supposed to be doing, however; her primary role is to solve the root causes of a historic spike in illegal immigration and a concomitant border crisis that has overwhelmed our facilities.
The Washington Post reported that preliminary April data from Customs and Border Protection shows a leveling-off, but that still leaves the United States dealing with the same massive numbers as in March. We need a solution posthaste, something Biden and his administration have promised they can deliver with their focus on root causes.
However, if they can’t even identify the drivers of illegal immigration — including two things that definitely aren’t behind the border crisis — it’s yet another sign nothing on immigration is being fixed anytime soon by the Biden administration.
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