Vice President Kamala Harris and her staff are trying to avoid her assigned mission to tackle the growing humanitarian crisis at the U.S. southern border because it could be politically fraught, CNN reported this week.
Some unnamed sources indicated to the network Harris and her team are concerned that being linked to the border crisis could make her a scapegoat for Republicans for all the problems at the border, potentially hurting her chances to become president.
On March 24, President Joe Biden tasked Harris with leading the White House response to deal with the migration challenge at the U.S. southern border. He also charged her with pressuring Mexico and the Central American Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to strengthen their international boundaries to stem the flow of migrants heading to the United States.
Biden also charged Harris with overseeing diplomatic efforts in the Northern Triangle, the primary source of the migrants reaching the U.S. southern border, by developing and implementing a long-term strategy to address the root causes of migration from those nations.
Despite her multi-prong assignment, Harris has refused to visit the U.S. southern border despite a bipartisan push for her to do so, abandoning her task to lead the White House response to the crisis developing there.
Instead, Harris and her team have repeatedly stressed her task is only to address the root causes of migration, claiming President Joe Biden “mischaracterized” her mission, CNN noted.
Biden’s March 24 announcement outlining Harris’ mission appeared to trigger “panic” among the VP’s team, who believed being linked to the border crisis could be “politically damaging,” one of the unnamed White House officials told CNN.
However, another anonymous official reportedly denied that the Harris team was panicked. Harris, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, is expected to run for the White House again.
On Tuesday, CNN reported:
In the weeks since the President asked her to take charge of immigration from Central America, Vice President Kamala Harris and her staff have sought to make one thing clear: She does not manage the southern border.
Two White House officials familiar with the dynamic said Harris and her aides have emphasized internally that they want to focus on conditions in Central America that push migrants to the US southern border, as President Joe Biden tasked her to do. A record number of unaccompanied children crossed into the US this spring, and the throngs of desperate minors present a heart-rending problem as well as a political one.
Former and current officials, along with immigration experts, stress that the causes of migration and the surge on the border are inextricably linked and argue that while addressing the reasons people decide to migrate to the US is critical, it can’t be divorced from what’s happening at the US-Mexico border.
When Biden assigned Harris her new immigration role, she understood her mission could be politically fraught.
“Needless to say, the work will not be easy,” Harris said on March 24. “But it is important work.”
“We have to give people some sense of hope that if they stay, that help is on the way,” she told CNN in April. “It’s not going to be solved overnight; it’s a complex issue. If this were easy, it would’ve been handled years ago.”
CNN appeared to be on board with Harris’ reluctance to be linked to the border crisis to save her political future as a possible president.
The network accused Republicans and the media of mischaracterizing her new immigration role, and “potentially opening her up to criticism for the handling of the seemingly intractable problem.”
One of the [unnamed] officials said Harris appears eager for a portfolio that will allow her to achieve political victories, especially in foreign policy, an area where she is far less experienced than Biden. … Harris’ performance is critical to her future political career, which could well include a run for president.
Harris will make her first trip as VP to Mexico and Guatemala next week as part of her mission.
Even when it comes to Harris’s preferred task of addressing the “root causes” driving people to the U.S., she has altered her mission.
On March 24, she vowed to deal with that task by engaging in diplomacy with the elected Northern Triangle governments. However, Harris is now leaning more on non-government entities, including like-minded civil society leaders.