During her recent visit to Guatemala, Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a frank message to Central Americans hoping to find refuge in the United States. “I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border,” she said at a press conference with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on June 7. “Do not come. Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border.” Harris’s comments drew criticism from organizations advocating for asylum seekers. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D‑N.Y.) wrote on Twitter that seeking asylum at the U.S. border is “100% legal” and called on the United States to “finally acknowledge its contributions to destabilization and régime change in the region.”
Vice President Kamala Harris is traveling to Guatemala this week to discuss solutions to the poverty, violence, and corruption that are among the driving forces of migration. Contributing to these drivers are neoliberal arrangements, such as the Central America–Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which have been imposed on Guatemalans. This framework favors the development of large-scale mining and energy projects that are devastating to the well-being of rural communities and Indigenous peoples, while allowing private corporations to sue governments over hard-fought social and environmental protections. Case in point: A Nevada-based mining company is suing the Guatemalan government for over $400 million, claiming violations of investor protections in the CAFTA.
The nomination of Senator Kamala Harris to the position of Vice President of the United States has been widely recognized as a triumph for Black and Asian women in the country. Something similar happened twelve years ago when then-Senator Barack Obama accepted the nomination for President. There is no doubt that representation in the media, politics, education, corporate leadership, sports, among so many other areas, matters. However, the more crucial questions are how does representation matter as well as for whom and for what does it matter. Without addressing these questions, representation can easily succumb to a mechanism that contributes to the disempowerment of the very sectors that presumably benefit from it. Two hundred forty-four years after the declaration of the US independence, and only twenty-two years away from 2042, when non-Hispanic whites are projected to lose the status of demographic majorities in the country, it is clear that liberal institutions in the country cannot perpetually be managed by white people only.