Vice President Kamala Harris is hiding behind her assigned mission to address problems in just three Central American countries to avoid the growing political fallout from the worsening border crises.
Amid the growing surge of global migrants from South America and beyond currently overwhelming U.S. immigration authorities, “Harris’ focus … remains on the Northern Triangle,” a Central American region comprised of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, CNN reported late last week.
Many migrants from South America and beyond transit through the dangerous and lawless Darien Gap jungle along the border of Colombia and Panama, where many U.S.-bound foreigners are killed and raped.
CNN learned from unnamed senior officials that while Harris and her deputies have coordinated with officials from the Departments of State and Homeland Security (DHS), the VP’s office is not engaging with them on the issue of Panama and other regional partners that can help stem the flow of global migrants.
“The conversations with Panama are broader and fall into what we see as the migration management category,” one of the senior administration officials told CNN. “While we’re very much coordinated, we aren’t having those conversations, but others in the White House are.”
“Harris’ focus, though, remains on the Northern Triangle,” the network added.
The question of how to correct deeply rooted problems driving Central Americans to make the harrowing journey to the United States has vexed officials from the past two administrations, including Biden when serving as VP.
Some analysts and allies have suggested that Biden, being aware of the enormity of the task, has set up Harris for failure. Fellow Democrats, corporate media allies, and pro-immigration advocates joined Republicans in giving Harris flak for her lackluster performance during her trip to Latin America in June.
In the weeks after Biden abruptly tasked his VP in late March with leading the White House response to the migrant surge as border apprehensions were beginning to shatter records, Harris and her team made it clear to the White House that she did not want to be responsible for managing migration flows, unnamed officials familiar with the discussions told CNN.
Initially, Harris had reportedly embraced her new role as a venue for showing presidential leadership.
However, Democrat allies and Harris’ team appeared to realize after the honeymoon phase of her assignment wore off that distancing the VP from the politically fraught border crisis would protect her political ambitions to succeed President Biden, CNN reported back in June.
The Harris camp reportedly accused President Biden and the media of mischaracterizing her role as a “Border Czar” charged with managing migration flows, stressing that her task is only to address the so-called root causes of migration in the Northern Triangle.
Biden’s White House ultimately went along with Harris’s watered-down version of her assignment. By the time Harris unveiled her Northern Triangle strategy in late July, the rising wave of global migrants had washed away the administration’s effort to blame the migration crisis it had refused to recognize for months on “root causes” in the Central American region.
The Biden administration made tackling migration from the Northern Triangle a pivotal component of its plans to deal with the border crisis, paying little attention to other countries.
Last Friday, CNN indicated that global migration had made the border problems too big for Harris and the administration overall to handle, noting:
When President Joe Biden tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to address the reasons people migrate to the US southern border, her focus was on addressing problems in Central America. But seven months later, it’s migrants arriving from even farther away in South America who are overwhelming the administration, leaving the White House with a larger problem that officials are still looking for ways to solve.
Biden administration critics, including Republicans and government officials from the Northern Triangle, have blamed President Biden’s border policies for incentivizing migrants from across the world to leave their homes for the United States.
Mexico and the Northern Triangle remain the primary drivers of migration flows to the U.S. However, the influx of “extra-continental” or global migrants from countries far away from the southern border, such as Haiti, Venezuela, and Turkey, account for the most dramatic increases in migrant arrivals under Biden.
“We face a challenge that in many ways is unique with tremendous pressure from illegal migratory flows coming in different ways, different parts of the hemisphere,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Mexico this month. “We have to have a stronger regional approach to this challenge.”
The Biden administration is considering expanding its Harris-led effort to blame the border crisis on underlying causes of migration to the entire Western Hemisphere, a move that would likely prevent the VP from restricting her assignment to the Northern Triangle to protect her political future.
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