President Joe Biden on Wednesday appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the White House’s efforts to combat the worsening crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border where governmental resources have been stretched thin by a surge of migrants entering the country.
Harris will work with Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in an attempt to slow the influx of asylum seekers. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has said its agents encountered 100,000 migrants making illegal crossings in February, a 28 percent increase from the month before.
“I can think of nobody who is better qualified to do this,” Biden said, noting Harris’s prior work as California attorney general.
“When she speaks, she speaks for me, doesn’t have to check with me,” the president added. “She knows what she’s doing and I hope we can move this along.”
Biden, however, shirked responsibility for the situation at the border, saying the surge “started in the past administration but it is our responsibility” to handle it.
Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last week said “poverty, high levels of violence and corruption in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries” are to blame for the influx, and have “propelled migration to our southwest border for years.”
Republicans have argued it is Biden who is at fault for the surge, after he rescinded the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and reinstated “catch and release.”
Harris said there is “no question this is a challenging situation,” and noted the need to enforce laws and to address the root causes of the surge.