VP Harris promises US to be “safe haven” for asylum-seekers

Washington, Jun 10 (EFE).- Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday eased back on the harsh message she sent to potential migrants during her trip earlier this week to Guatemala and Mexico, saying that she is “committed” to guaranteeing that the United States will be a “safe haven” for people seeking asylum.

“Let me be very clear, I am committed to making sure we provide a safe haven for those seeking asylum, period,” Harris said in an exclusive telephone interview with EFE after returning from her first international trip as vice president.

Harris was responding to criticism she has received from her own Democratic Party this week, including from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for having urged residents of Central America’s Northern Triangle not to come to the US, saying specifically “Don’t come.”

That message, which was accompanied by a warning that illegal migrants would be expelled from the US if they crossed the border, sparked alarm among politicians and human rights experts, who noted that the US has a commitment under its own – and international – law to process the asylum request of anybody making one in US territory, whether they arrived legally or illegally.

In her telephone conversation with EFE, Harris also defended the Joe Biden administration, saying that the government wants to “expand legal pathways for immigration” to the US, and thus the Democratic administration is pressuring Congress to approve immigration reform measures.

“We are also rebuilding our immigration system, to the extent that it deteriorated under the (Republican Donald Trump) administration, but also we must address the root causes of migration, and that is why I traveled to Guatemala and then after that to Mexico,” Harris said.

The vice president did not get into the contradictions between this message about a welcoming US and her other remarks that undocumented migrants should not come to this country, and she noted that “part of my charge (as vice president) has been to address the root causes (of illegal migration), … hunger in the region, … the impact of the hurricanes … the COVID-19 impact” rather than overseeing activities at the US-Mexico border.

In addition, she said that the administration is not “overlooking” the issue of migration in Honduras and El Salvador, two countries that she did not include in her regional tour earlier this week, but she acknowledged that those nations have “problems” with corruption.

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