The White House is struggling to define Vice President Kamala Harris’ “border czar” role as the immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border continues to worsen.
President Joe Biden tapped Harris to handle the border issue in March, and since then she has argued that the only way to reduce illegal immigration is to address its “root causes,” namely poverty and violence in Central and South American countries. Her first attempt to address the crisis with a trip to Guatemala and Mexico met with widespread criticism from Republicans and some fellow Democrats.
Her last major action with respect to immigration came in July with the unveiling of strategy to focus on cutting down the incentives migrants have for traveling to the U.S. in the first place.
“In Central America, the root causes of migration run deep — and migration from the region has a direct impact on the United States,” Harris stated regarding the plan. “For that reason, our nation must consistently engage with the region to address the hardships that cause people to leave Central America and come to our border.”
The plan included neither a detailed timeline nor a list of specific policy actions, however, instead mainly focusing on the importance of combating poverty, corruption and crime in South and Central American countries.
Monthly border crossings have continued to escalate, but Harris’ only engagement with the crisis in recent days was a statement condemning U.S. Border Patrol officers for their alleged treatment of Haitian migrants. The media widely accused officers of using whips to stop a group of roughly 10,000 Haitian migrants crossing the border into Texas, but the “whips” were revealed to be reins for the mounted officers’ horses.
“As we all know it evoked images of some of the worst moments of our history where that kind of behavior has been used against the indigenous people of our country, has been used against African Americans during times of slavery,” she said in an ABC interview.
Harris’ absence on the border issue continued Wednesday, as she hosted a meeting with female small business owners to discuss the economy. She did not mention immigration or the U.S.-Mexico border, nor did she take questions from the press before or after the event. (RELATED: White House Reportedly ‘Perplexed’ By Kamala Harris’ First Foreign Policy Trip)
“So today I have asked American business leaders to join me here to have a discussion about the economy in our country, and one of the most important foundations of our economy in this country are our small business, our small business leaders,” Harris said at the meeting, going on to mark the benefits of the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have taken advantage of Harris’ seeming hesitation to engage with the border crisis. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy published an open letter on Friday titled “Where’s Vice President Kamala Harris?”
“Six months into her appointment, we have a humanitarian and security crisis at the border with no leadership from the official tasked with ‘stemming the migration’ of immigrants across our border,” McCarthy wrote. “As ‘Border Czar’, Kamala Harris has done nothing to help stop the border crisis. She has let down the local leaders and our Border Patrol agents who have been forced to deal with the fallout of this administration’s bad policies. Even after months of being named to this position, this administration still has no clear plan to address the situation.”
Where is the Border Czar, Vice President Kamala Harris? pic.twitter.com/5dI5BST1pg
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) September 23, 2021
Harris’ office did not respond by the time of publication when asked how she was addressing the border situation. Her office also did not provide an update on how her long-term solution of addressing the “root causes” of immigration was progressing.