More than two weeks after President Joe Biden placed her in charge of addressing the crisis at the border, Vice President Kamala Harris has made few public moves to show she has a handle on the situation.
Harris has visited Connecticut, California, and Chicago since her role was unveiled on March 24 amid mounting pressure on the White House to take action. Migrants have surged over the border by the thousands since Biden took office, and the administration was unprepared to house the record number of unaccompanied minors who have crossed into the United States this year.
But Harris has yet to unveil any plans to travel to the border, even as the situation worsens. More than 172,000 people tried to cross the border illegally in March alone — setting a 15-year record.
White House officials sought to downplay her responsibility for the crisis after Biden announced Harris’ new responsibilities. Aides have since stressed that Harris’s role will be limited to diplomatic outreach for the Northern Triangle countries, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, from which many of the migrants are coming.
Harris has spoken by phone to the presidents of Guatemala and Mexico but has made few other public moves to reinforce the idea that she is focused on addressing the root causes of migration in Central America.
Traveling to Connecticut shortly after her role was announced, Harris promoted the $1.9 trillion stimulus package and the childcare policies within it.
She spent Easter weekend in southern California — but did not travel to the nearby U.S.-Mexico border. That trip involved a stop in Oakland, where she touted the White House’s infrastructure plan.
During her Chicago visit, where she spoke about vaccines, Harris picked up a slice of cake at a local bakery — a detour that some conservatives, including Sen. Ted Cruz, attacked as a sign she hasn’t prioritized the border.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday defended Harris’s bakery stop.
“I would say the vice president was visiting Chicago actually to talk about COVID and the importance of communities getting the vaccine when it’s available and accessible to them,” Psaki said at the White House briefing. “And so, while she was there, like many Americans, she got a snack. I think she’s allowed to do that.”
White House officials have defended Harris against the charge that she hasn’t spent any time focused on the border.
The White House, on Wednesday, pointed to a statement from Harris’s office this week that applauded the deployment of increased humanitarian assistance to Northern Triangle countries. Harris’s spokeswoman, Symone Sanders, said Harris “welcomes” an announcement from the U.S. Agency for International Development that it had sent a Disaster Assistance Response Team to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to ramp up emergency food aid and job programs among other forms of assistance.
Psaki said Wednesday that the White House had no update on when Harris might travel to the border or to any of the countries with which she is tasked to negotiate.
“I’m sure it will be soon,” Psaki said of the potential travel.
Meanwhile, Republicans are increasingly fixated on Harris’s silence on the border.
“Given the scale of the crisis – exemplified by children being thrown over walls and the clear potential of a COVID-19 super-spreading event – one would expect the vice president to immediately jump on Air Force Two and get to the border,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote in a Fox News op-ed this week.
Harris hasn’t even taken the time to hold a press conference since allegedly taking charge of the border situation,” McDaniel wrote. “She is working harder on avoiding accountability for the crisis than she is on trying to fix it. ”
Author : Sarah Westwood
Source : Washington Examiner : Kamala Harris MIA on border crisis