Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Central America and Mexico this week to address the root causes of northward migration with regional leaders.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Antonio Garza, told Texas Standard Harris’ visits should help reinforce the Biden administration’s immigration strategy – one that’s more open than that of the Trump administration, but also bent on deterring migration as much as possible.
Garza says almost a million individuals have been stopped at the southern border between October 2020 and April 30, 2021, though actual data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows there were actually almost 750,000 apprehensions.
“Quite frankly, [it] is the most in over a decade,” he said.
Some have criticized Harris, however, for not visiting the U.S.-Mexico border region during the trip. Garza says it’s important she visits soon, but only as part of a comprehensive border strategy, rather than using the border as a political “prop.”
“If you’ve got some real thoughts on immigration and a willingness to listen, both in terms of the enforcement and the need for broader immigration reform, then come to the border,” he said.
Addressing immigration will require tackling several issues at once, he says, including creating a citizenship pathway for those who have temporary protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA; and improving the asylum process.
Garza also says building a different kind of relationship with Mexico than what former President Trump had established over the last four years will be crucial to border security. Harris met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Tuesday in part of what Garza called a “broadening” of the U.S. agenda with Mexico.
“The previous administration’s relationship with López Obrador, while outwardly friendly, I think, was so one-dimensional that it shortchanged our ability to address some very complex transnational issues,” he said.
He says if the United States wants to protect Americans’ security at the border region and beyond, working closely with Mexico is imperative.
“As a Texan, we appreciate that if you’re dealing with transnational problems, whether they be security, transnational criminal organizations, human trafficking, you need a close, cooperative relationship with Mexico in order to be effective,” Garza said.