Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday deflected questions about why she has not yet visited the southern border after being tasked with handling the “root causes” of migration, saying “we’ve been to the border.”
NBC’s Lester Holt asked Harris whether she has plans to visit the border, having gone 76 days without a trip there since being named border czar.
“I – at some point – you know – we are going to the border. We’ve been to the border,” Harris said. “So this whole – this whole – this whole thing about the border. We’ve been to the border. We’ve been to the border.”
Holt pushed back, noting Harris had not been to the border herself while in office.
“I – and I haven’t been to Europe. And I mean, I don’t – I don’t understand the point that you’re making,” Harris said, adding “I’m not discounting the importance of the border.”
“Listen, I care about what’s happening at the border,” Harris said, adding that she is “in Guatemala because my focus is dealing with the root causes of migration.”
“There may be some who think that that is not important, but it is my firm belief that if we care about what’s happening at the border, we better care about the root causes and address them,” she said. “And so that’s what I’m doing.”
Holt also raised criticisms leveled by Representative Henry Cuellar (D., Texas) and other border Democrats over Harris’s absence at the border.
“We don’t just go visit the border, we live at the border. We talk to the NGOs there, we talk to the mayors, the county judges, to the border patrol, to the men and women in blue, green, and other folks, ICE agents also. We understand this very well,” Cuellar told National Review in April. “I still will encourage them to do more, to reach out to the folks on the border communities and keep talking to them, to make sure that they get a balanced view of what’s happening there at the border itself.”
CNN reported last week that Harris’ team is trying to distance her from the U.S.-Mexico border crisis after President Biden appointed the vice president to lead the administration’s efforts there in March.
At the time, Biden announced the assignment saying he had asked “because she’s the most qualified person to do it, to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle, and the countries that can help, need help in stemming the movement of so many folks, stemming the migration to our southern border.”
However, according to CNN, Harris’s aides went into a “panic” after Biden’s announcement “out of concern that her assignment was being mischaracterized and could be politically damaging if she were linked to the border, which at the time was facing a growing number of arrivals.”
Harris and the White House have previously excused the vice president’s absence at the White House as being due to “COVID issues” or the risk of disruption of a vice-presidential visit.
The Biden administration has faced a surge of migration at the southern border after rolling back a number of Trump-era policies, including the Migrant Protection Protocols, which required asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their claims were being adjudicated.
Since the policy was rolled back, roughly 40 percent of those who arrive on the Southern border seeking asylum are admitted to the U.S while their claims are adjudicated, and many of them never appear at their scheduled court hearings.
Harris’ comments on Tuesday came as she visited Guatemala, her first visit abroad since taking on the crisis at the border.
During a joint press conference with Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday, Harris told Central Americans considering illegally migrating to the U.S., “Do not come.”
“We will discourage illegal migration,” she said. “The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border.”
“There are legal methods by which migration can and should occur,” Harris said.
“If you come to our border, you will be turned back,” the vice president added.