Biden puts VP Harris in charge of border influx

Brenda Watkins
March 25, 2021

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration was "committed to transparency and we'll continue to work with agencies on creating avenues for media access to and visibility into these facilities". "She doesn't realize that means she gets every assignment".

Harris said the job "will not be easy, but it is important work, it is work that we demand as a people of our country".

Since January, the Biden administration has reversed a policy of turning away unaccompanied children, instead choosing to process them and place them with sponsoring families in the US.

"Thank you, Mr. President, for having the confidence in me".

Officials said Harris would focus her efforts on stemming the current flow of migrants and on developing a larger strategic partnership with Central American countries based on respect and shared values. "While we are clear that people should not come to the border now, we also understand that we will enforce the law and that we also - because we can chew gum and walk at the same time - must address the root causes that cause people to make the trek, as the President has described, to come here".

By putting her in charge of addressing the growing humanitarian crisis on the US-Mexico border, Biden has given Harris a significant portfolio laced with both political opportunity and peril.

Harris' new responsibility is similar to one Biden had while he was vice president.

Harris said that there was "no question that this is a challenging situation" and reiterated the administration's call that no additional migrants come to the border.

Migrants at the US Customs and Border Protection temporary processing centre in Donna Texas 22 March 2021

"We're going to look at the possibility for people in their home countries in the Northern Triangle to have a predictable, regular process of seeking asylum there so they don't have to take this phenomenally unsafe journey or, worse yet, send their children unaccompanied", said one senior official who briefed reporters on the Harris move.

Those close to Harris said foreign policy and national security are key areas she wants to develop in her portfolio, and she's taken steps to beef up her experience since taking office, including by speaking with foreign foreign leaders.

But she said that the administration, in office for less than 100 days, needed to fix a structure torn apart by former president Donald Trump, who rose to power on an aggressive anti-immigration agenda. "Are you frustrated? Yes, we are".

Biden's decision gives a high-profile assignment to his vice president, a former US senator from California, and gives her the same role he played as vice president for then-President Barack Obama.

Harris spoke shortly before she and Biden are set to meet the heads of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services, both of whom are tasked with managing the migrants crossing the southern United States border.

Another official said Biden had asked Harris to take on the job.

The officials, along with several members of Congress, will travel to a refugee resettlement centre in Carrizo Springs on Wednesday, the White House said in a statement, adding that it would also allow limited media coverage of the visit amid pressure from journalists. "It's not going to happen overnight", Harris said of the immigration system.

"Vice President Harris taking on this challenge in her own style, in her own way", the official said.

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