Kamala Harris 'is not doing the border,' top aide says
By Katherine Doyle
A top aide to Vice President Kamala Harris tempered a White House announcement this week that she would oversee efforts to stem the flow of migrants at the southern border, a politically fraught task amid the growing crisis.
“The vice president is not doing the border,” Harris's senior adviser and chief spokeswoman Symone Sanders told reporters on Friday, adding that the vice president is strictly dealing with the root causes of migration.
Sanders said the task would entail outreach to leaders in Mexico and the so-called "Northern Triangle" countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, calling it a "challenging situation."
"It's diplomatic work that needs to be done, and Vice President Harris is looking forward to doing it," she said.
Senior administration officials previewed Harris's new role on Wednesday, telling reporters the vice president would be "picking up the mantle" of President Joe Biden's 2014 effort to strengthen national borders across the continent.
Sanders said the vice president was briefed on Thursday by a delegation of White House officials who had returned from Mexico, where they met with top officials, talks that a senior Biden aide on Thursday called "constructive."
Harris's new diplomatic task begins at a moment of intense scrutiny as lawmakers from both parties seek to draw attention to the growing number of people apprehended at the southern border and to the housing conditions for children who have been detained.
"After visiting the facilities where these kids are being kept, that are close to my daughter's age, the stories we are hearing are beyond horrifying that's happening to these young girls," Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said Friday at a news conference in Mission, Texas.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey this week slammed Harris as the "worst possible choice," telling reporters in Tucson that Biden had "completely trivialized the issue by putting someone in charge who flat-out just doesn't care."
"At no point in her career has [Harris] given any indication that she considers the border a problem or a serious threat," Ducey said. "If President Biden's intent was to show that he's taking this issue seriously, he's really done the exact opposite."
The Biden administration has struggled to contain the migrant surge, which has overwhelmed federal temporary housing facilities for minors and left children languishing for days in Border Patrol stations, well past the three-day limit.
Sanders said that while Harris intends to travel to the border in the future, she has no trip planned.