Image Credits: Mike Segar/Reuters.
I’m struck, looking over Vice-President Kamala Harris’s remarks on Wednesday as she prepared to meet with influential Guatemalans, at how simple it is to articulate a problem if you’re not an irredeemable asshole like Mitt Romney.
And so, today, we have leaders from — from this background who have fought and have spent their entire careers fighting for justice in Guatemala. At this table are attorneys who have prosecuted drug traffickers and organized crime. At this table are judges who have advocated for an independent judiciary and the rule of law; leaders who have taken on corruption, who have taken on violence, and have worked to commit themselves to what must happen in terms of ensuring that there will be justice as it relates to all people in Guatemala.
Some of these leaders have been forced to leave the country because of this work. And we are here because I want to hear your stories unfiltered, unedited, and directly.
As Harris went on to explain, corruption in the Guatemalan government and judicial system is central to the surge of migrants at the U.S. southern border. It undermines the country’s ability to attract foreign investment and therefore does real damage to economic opportunity, but it also makes it impossible to effectively combat crime, meaning that ordinary citizens are fleeing the country not just for jobs but for their own safety. Therefore, lessening corruption and improving the judicial system are prerequisites to making meaningful progress, and this must be a first step because American politicians aren’t eager to spend money in Guatemala if they think it’s just going to help entrench corrupt bastards in power.
Romney, however, grilled Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas during a hearing on the Southern border last week, arguing that there’s no reason to consider foreign aid to the Northern Triangle because we can’t give money to every country in the world. He said this, by the way, in the midst of excoriating the administration over the fact that Central Americans are arriving at our border in droves.
This complete lack of seriousness is what I expect from Romney, and it’s what keeps him firmly in the fold of a party that no longer needs or wants him. It’s true that simply throwing money at the problem will not work, but that’s precisely Harris’s point. On the other hand, if we want to stop the surge of migrants, we have to address the root causes, and if we are going to do anything about those root causes, it won’t be by sending money to Angola or Switzerland. It’s not a legitimate argument that Romney makes–that we can’t invest some resources in the Northern Triangle unless we’re also investing in every other country on Earth.
It’s also not serious to think we can stop the illegal entry with walls and gadgets alone.
Harris’s argument is unassailable. We can’t help Guatemala simply by giving them money. If we’re going to make a big investment, the first thing that investment should go toward is improving the judicial system. If that’s not possible, then nothing else is really possible either.
Romney fancies himself a statesman, but he’s showboating instead, pretending to be stupid to score points with a Republican base that would rather see him hanged than follow his lead.
The migrant problem is complicated and vexing, but it’s made more so by Romney’s refusal to help and his decision to score cheap and worthless political points rather than doing something constructive.