Psaki Clarifies ‘Confusion’ Over VP Harris New Role, Expected To Address ‘Root Causes’ Of Border Crisis

Psaki Clarifies ‘Confusion’ Over VP Harris New Role, Expected To Address ‘Root Causes’ Of Border Crisis

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
|
March 29, 2021

White House press secretary Jen Psaki clarified the special new role President Biden assigned Vice President Kamala Harris, telling reporters that the second in command wouldn’t be in charge of the border crisis, instead would be in charge of “helping lead” efforts on tackling the root causes the Biden Administration really believe is the real cause for the surge of migrants flocking to the southern border.

“We just announced an envoy, as well, to the region which shows our focus and emphasis on addressing the root causes. And, of course, the Vice President of the United States will be helping lead that effort — specifically, the root causes, not the border. There is some confusion over that,” Psaki said Monday during her daily White House press briefing.

“We know this will be a diplomatic process. Our view it’s not ‘if,’ but ‘when’ we work through with these countries — the best ways we can work together to address root causes. And the President has also proposed an immigration bill that includes $400 billion in funding to help address the root causes, as well, and help ensure that families and individuals who are making this trip are incentivized to stay in their countries,” Psaki added.

Last Thursday, Biden tapped his Vice President to be the point person to lead his administration’s efforts in developing partnerships with Mexico and the Northern Triangle Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, as well as dealing with “stemming the serious spikes” of migrants crossing the border.

Psaki said Harris’ role would focus on the region of Mexico and the Northern Triangle, the root causes, and “directly engaging with the governments, while working with agencies in charge of “oversight of processes at the border, shelters, and moving children out of border patrol facilities.”

“[Harris] is focused on addressing root causes in the region.  And so, travel, I would expect, would be there.  The border and expediting processing at the border, opening shelters, ensuring we’re moving kids out of Border Patrol facilities — that is really under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services.  And they will all work together, but the Vice President’s focus is on the region, root causes, and engaging with governments directly,” Psaki stated when asked if there are any upcoming travel to Central America or to the border planned for the Vice President as “part of her looking into the root causes” of the immigration problem.

The press secretary reiterated what the president listed as factors the Biden administration believe are to be the “root causes,” including violence, corruption, poverty, and climate change that are driving illegal migrants up north from Central America, arguing that once they attempt to addresses these factors, it could help mitigate the surge of those flocking to the border.

Since appointed to the role that has now been clarified by the White House almost a week later, Harris has barely done any single immigration-related event or has yet scheduled to attend meetings or phone calls regarding the burgeoning crisis.

According to a senior administration official who spoke to the Washington Post Monday, Harris will start her diplomatic efforts over “the next several days” by making her first telephone outreach calls to Latin American leaders.

Neither Biden nor Harris has visited the southern border since taking office, but both have refused to commit to a hard date. Last week, Biden during his first press conference gave reporters an invalid excuse as a reason he hasn’t yet made the trip, saying he didn’t want the media frenzy to focus the story on him and “become the issue.”

The vice president when asked the same question last week laughed before responding that she would visit the border at some point.

The Biden administration continues to face stiff criticism for its response and handling of the border crisis, which has seen migrants, including hundreds of unaccompanied children daily flocking to the border at levels unseen in 20 years. Leaked documents from the Biden Administration agencies project number of unaccompanied minors along with family members will continue to spiral over the next six months, with numbers projected t0 smash records every month. The Biden administration is anticipating based on the estimates that the number of unaccompanied minors crossing could rise from 16,000 for the month of April to 26,000 in September.

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

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