Biden taps Harris to stem rising tide of migrants on southern border

Vice President Kamala Harris
Vice President Kamala Harris; Photo credit: White House

Indian American VP ‘most qualified person’ to lead diplomatic efforts, says Biden.

President Joe Biden has tasked his Indian American deputy Kamala Harris to lead US efforts to stem the rising tide of migrants, many of them unaccompanied children, at the nation’s southern border.

“I can think of nobody who is better qualified to do this,” the president told reporters at the White House Wednesday noting that Harris was already handling five other major things, including efforts to beat the Covid-19 pandemic and getting people back to work.

“I’ve asked her, the VP, today — because she’s the most qualified person to do it — to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle that are going to need help in stemming the migration to our southern border,” he said.

READ: Biden wants to fix broken immigration system (March 25, 2021)

Biden said his administration was reinstating an over $700 million aid program “to the countries in the Northern Triangle to determine the best way to keep people from coming is keep them from wanting to leave.”

Harris, he said, had agreed “to lead our diplomatic effort and work with those nations to accept the returnees, and enhance migration enforcement at their borders.”

“It’s not her full responsibility and job, but she’s leading the effort,” Biden said, “because I think the best thing to do is to put someone who, when he or she speaks, they don’t have to wonder about is that where the President is.”

“When she speaks, she speaks for me.  Doesn’t have to check with me.  She knows what she’s doing, and I hope we can move this along,” he added.

Describing it as “a challenging situation,” Harris said, “while we are clear that people should not come to the border now, we also must address the root causes” of the problem.

The Vice President said she looked forward to “engaging in diplomacy with government, with private sector, with civil society, and the leaders of each in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to strengthen democracy and the rule of law, and ensure shared prosperity in the region.”

Harris said she also looked forward “to working with members of the Congress who, I think, share our perspective on the need to address root causes for the migration that we’ve been seeing.”

The diplomatic “role puts Harris front-and-center at one of the most politically risky issues for the White House as it struggles with an influx of migrant children at the southern border,” Politico said.

READ: Biden puts H-1B on the back burner; immigrants, refugees come first (March 2, 2021)

But Harris would not be owning the entire immigration portfolio for the administration and would be instead focused on long-term efforts in Central America, it said citing aides on a call with reporters.

“Harris’ new responsibility is similar to one Biden had while he was vice president,” Politico said noting he visited the region several times as more migrants from the three countries began to make their way en masse to the US-Mexico border.

Those efforts were seen as largely unsuccessful, and the situation in the countries has grown even more precarious, it said.

Meanwhile, Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey slammed Biden’s decision to tap Harris as the leading administration official to oversee the crisis at the southern border, saying she was the “worst possible choice.”

“At no point in her career has [Harris] given any indication that she considers the border a problem or a serious threat,” Ducey said, according to the Arizona Republic as cited by the Hill.

“If President Biden’s intent was to show that he’s taking this issue seriously … he’s really done the exact opposite.”

“I’ve been governor under three presidents, and this is by far the worst situation we’ve seen,” Ducey said, according to the newspaper. “Washington has never been more out of touch, and it starts at the top.”

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