Biden Taps Harris to Take Lead on Response to Border Crisis
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is putting Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of leading the White House effort to get a handle on the surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Biden made the announcement as he and Harris met at the White House on Wednesday with Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and other immigration advisers to discuss the increase in young migrants arriving at the border in recent weeks.
“Starting today, the Northern Triangle nations and Mexico will know there was one senior official dedicated to this effort. To be very clear, this is an important task,” a senior administration official told reporters during a conference call shortly before the announcement.
Harris will lead efforts with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to manage the flow of unaccompanied children and migrant families arriving at the border in numbers not seen since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
In delegating the matter to Harris, Biden is taking a step very similar to one President Barack Obama took, turning to his vice president — Joe Biden — early in his first term, to lead the White House effort to draw down U.S. troops in the intractable war in Iraq.
In his remarks on Wednesday, Biden spoke of “serious spikes” in the number of people heading to the U.S.-Mexico border. “This new surge we are dealing with now started in the past administration but is our responsibility,” he said.
“I can think of nobody who is better qualified to do this,” Biden said, mentioning Harris’ work as California attorney general.
Harris said there is “no question this is a challenging situation,” and that it will be critical going forward to both enforce existing laws on immigration while also addressing the root causes of the surge.
She also said she looks forward to engaging in diplomacy with the four countries, as well as engaging with the private sector in each of them.
With the move, Biden hopes to show Americans he’s taking the border situation seriously after facing stiff criticism from Republicans as the flow of migrants has increased since he took office in January.
The announcement and high-level meeting coming the same day the White House arranged a trip for senior aides and member of Congress to South Texas illustrated the breadth of the administration’s efforts to get control of the problem.