President Biden has tapped Vice President Harris to lead the administration’s efforts in developing partnerships with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries as well as dealing with “stemming” the “serious spikes” of migrants crossing the southern border, a problem he continues to blame his predecessor for the burgeoning crisis he single-handling created.
“I have asked her, the VP, today, because she is the most qualified person to do it, to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle and the countries that are going to need help in stemming the movement of so many folks, stemming the migration to our southern border,” Biden told reporters before the White House high-level meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Biden admitted the “serious spikes” in migrants heading to the border, saying it started with former President Donald Trump, but vowed to take ownership of the situation and handle it “humanely.”
“This increase has been consequential. But the vice president has agreed, among the multiple other things I have had her leading, and I appreciate it,” he said.
The president said Harris the “most qualified person” to be the point person for this effort, pointing to her experience as California’s attorney general and her work promoting the $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus plan at stops around the country.
Harris will be involved in diplomacy and developing partnerships with Mexico and El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, as well as working with the private sector to find solutions to the border rush.
“If you deal with the problem in the country, it benefits everyone. It benefits us, it benefits the people, it grows the economies there. Unfortunately, the last administration eliminated that funding and did not engage in it, did not use it, even though there was over $700 million to help get this done. We are reinstituting that program,” Biden said.
A White House official said Harris’s work will run along two tracks — first to address the swell of migrants at the southern border, and second to build long-term partnerships with the Central American countries the people are fleeing.
“She’ll work first on the goal of stemming the flow of irregular migrants to the U.S. … but at the same time, the real goal is to establish a strategic partnership with these countries based on respect and shared values,” the White House official told reporters in a conference call ahead of the announcement.
Harris will also spearhead the White House’s immigration portfolio so that Mexico and the Northern Triangle will know “there is one single figure dedicated to this effort,” the official added.
The vice president thanked Biden for the “confidence” in tasking her with this new special role.
“There is no question that this is a challenging situation. As the president has said, there are many factors that lead [people] to leave these countries. 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,” Harris said.