Kamala Harris: An Opportunity at the Border

The Vice President has been assigned a tough gig - but that's what she likes best

Kamala Harris has had a great start as Vice President. There was the successful foreign tour, and the soft internal diplomacy of Harris restarting the bipartisan all-women Senators’ dinner, which played to her twin strengths as a former Senator and as a woman. Most of all, she has supported Biden, much as Joe Biden, as Vice President, supported Obama. Despite being by far the more newsworthy of our two top executives in human interest terms - elegant, attractive, telegenic, and the first female to occupy the office - Kamala has been extremely careful to remain in the shadows. We can assume she is close to President Biden and is serving as his chief sounding board in most matters.

There were only a couple of discordant notes, and a few of those are bound to come along in any new administration. Kamala Harris is a quick learner. She will have to be; few women in the history of the planet have risen as far and as fast as the Vice President. When Barack Obama elevated Joe Biden, Biden already had decades of Senatorial service under his belt. Kamala Harris, whose Wikipedia entry opens the batting by describing her as ‘the highest-ranking female official in U.S. history’, by contrast, only had a single term in the Senate under her belt when her moderate views and star power, as well as her sheer brilliance and essential likability, persuaded Biden that she was the one. No sooner had Harris learned the ropes of the Senate in the brutally monopartisan world of Mitch McConnell than she was off to the White House, a rookie once more.

So, those discordant notes. First, not Harris, but, it was leaked, somebody in her office, apparently floated the name of a notorious Russophile to be on the National Security Council. I cannot believe that the name of Matthew Rogansky came from Harris herself; as one of the brightest stars of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she should have a stern word with whoever did float this thankfully discarded idea. Secondly, Biden, in giving Harris a “big job”, gave her the toughest one any Democrat could have: the border and immigration. Harris flubbed one interview slightly and has seemed defensive on the topic, understandably. Many would consider it a “poisoned chalice”. Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and cruel actions to children and families need no rehearsal, but Democrats are, therefore, expected to reverse all of that, and yet somehow prevent an opportunistic flood of economic migrants who endanger themselves and their children attempting to cross the border. .

But Harris has before her a glittering opportunity. The disaster of the border - child separations and racist demonstrators on the one hand, and umitigated illegal immigration that puts kids in terrible danger on the other - is so bad that if she can either fix it, or make big improvements, she will be unbeatable as the Democratic nominee for President and unbeatable in the general election too. Why? Because if Harris can fix this, she can give the Republicans what they want.

Not all of what they want, of course not. She is a Democrat. But Trump, with his Russian allies crunching the data numbers, didn’t sieze on the border and “build that wall”! because he himself had any ideology of any kind. He picked border security because it really matters to a huge swathe of Americans. Especially poorer Americans who believe, with no real basis, that immigrants from the south are ‘taking our jobs’. When Democrats shriek about the phrase ‘illegal immigrant’ and use ‘undocumented alien’, for example, they are saying, so Republicans think, that it’s perfectly OK to cross the US border illegally for economic reasons. That nothing wrong was done there. ‘Humans are not illegal’, say the campaigners, and that’s true, but acts are, or can be, illegal. An immigrant is one who has entered. You can do that three ways; legally, illegally, or involuntarily (as a child, or if you are a victim of trafficking).

Democrats reading this may well say “Why should Kamala Harris appeal to racist white Republicans who think Mexicans are taking their jobs?” True; she shouldn’t pitch at those people. But there are plenty more behind them, non-racist, law and order minded small town Americans who want a secure border and who think it’s fundamentally unfair and wrong that people enter the country illegally.

What if Kamala Harris could square the circle? What if she could fix the border issue, and come up with a solution that reassures Republicans and makes Democrats hope in the system again?

I believe the opportunity is directly in front of the Vice President, and with it, the keys to the White House and her place in history as the most powerful woman on earth since the reign of the Pharaoh Hatshepsut in 1478 B.C.

Kamala Harris’s alt-left detractors were very much fellow-travelers for Vladimir Putin as they acted against her in the primaries and then again, with a surge of panic, as she became a Biden running-mate front-runner. One of their favorite phrases to demean her with was “Kamala is a Cop”, because Harris was an extremely able prosecutor and served as the Attorney General of California. Harris should remember that these qualities, from which she took her Presidential slogan “For the People” (love it) are exactly what the border needs. As California’s chief prosecutor she threw crooks in jail but also fought for civil rights, for gay marriage, for ending ‘bias’ defenses, and for Californians’ privacy rights against Facebook weaponizing their data.

To win on the border, the Vice President must deploy the same strategy. She needs to announce a massive review of extremism and alleged violent acts in the ICE and Border Patrol agencies, adding that there will be zero tolerance under the Biden-Harris administration. At the same time, she needs to massively increase the size of both ICE and Border Patrol, recruiting agents everywhere but with special recruitment drives in the Mexican-American community.

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She should also announce more funding for social workers, teachers, nurses and other provision for children and families still in the system (compassion). She should double the number of agents or officers who process asylum applications and see if Mexico will allow that processing to take place inside its borders, perhaps at jointly-run stations, or via other diplomatic means. She should also announce more translators to act as advocates in the courts and transparency over immigration judges; if they can be federally appointed, Joe Biden should go right ahead and start adding to that bench.

A slew of anti-police activity has seen crime shoot up in the New York subway. Once the MTA started adding more uniformed police in train cars, the same crime statistics plunged. Funny how that works. More policing, in this case more border security, is the opposite of uncompassionate. It stops the sicarios and human traffickers who rape, kill and torture the desperate. It helps move the backlog that is placing children and families for too long in temporary camps. It acts as a deterrent to making the dangerous journey for economic migrants who will not wind up entering the US anyway. And it reassures Americans fearful of all these crimes, thereby making it politically easier for Biden to provide a pathway to citizenship for those who already entered this country a long time ago and who are now at home here.

A review of Border Patrol and Immigration / Customs, plus massive additions to their numbers and those of social workers and translators, satisifes both human rights and law enforcement. The money is not material for the United States, it is a false economy to save on prevention when each case and family to be deported costs exponentially more in time, money and civil unrest. Kamala Harris, the progressive and the ‘cop’, is the right woman at the right time to get this done. If she can manage it, the top job in the White House will be hers for the taking.

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