The vice president has been assigned to tackle the root causes of immigration from the Northern Triangle region of Central America.
Republican lawmakers have unleashed a barrage of attacks against Vice President Kamala Harris for not visiting the U.S.-Mexico border so far, where they claim the Biden administration's policies have cause a crisis, with rising numbers of immigrants trying to enter the country.
Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX), the embattled former White House physician accused of misconduct, tweeted on Tuesday, "WHERE has Kamala Harris been since she was named President Biden’s Border Czar? She’s NOWHERE to be seen. She's hiding because she (and her party) WANT the border crisis to continue. This is happening BY DESIGN!"
"It's been 13 days since Biden tapped Kamala to address the #BidenBorderCrisis. She has no plans to visit the border & doesn't plan to address it to the press," Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) tweeted on Wednesday. "Don't be like #HidinBiden. End the silence, @VP."
The same day, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) tweeted, "It’s been two weeks since @VP was put in charge of the border crisis. Why hasn’t she visited the border yet?"
Harris, however, was not assigned to handle issues directly related to the border.
President Joe Biden tasked Harris in March with addressing the root causes of immigration from Central America, where a large number of asylum seekers are coming from. Many of those fleeing their home countries are hoping to find refuge from threats of violence and poverty, some sending their children alone, with other adults, knowing they stand a better chance at safety.
"I asked her, the VP, today, 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," Biden told reporters on March 24.
In 2014, former President Barack Obama had similarly assigned Biden, his then-vice president, to be in charge of diplomatic efforts in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, three Northern Triangle countries.
Harris herself acknowledged in March that her role would be to address the root causes of immigration from the region And on Friday, Symone Sanders, Harris' spokesperson, also told reporters, "I will just reiterate that the vice president is not doing the border."
Sanders noted that Harris' work will take time, saying, "This is a challenging situation."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended Harris that month, saying in a press briefing on March 29 that the vice president's role was not focused on the border. "There's some confusion over that," she said.
Separately, during a White House briefing on Wednesday, Psaki added, "The Northern Triangle, which I'm sure you're aware of ... is not the same as the border."
"They're all related to each other, but ... being responsible in the lead on the Northern Triangle is working with these countries in the region, addressing the root causes, working with them on how we can address issues like long-term food insecurity, drought, the COVID-19 pandemic, hurricanes, et cetera. That's what she's focused on," the press secretary said of Harris' role.
"This is absolutely an issue that she remains committed to," she added.
When asked whether Harris would travel to the U.S.-Mexico border, Psaki said she did not have an update on her timeline, but added, "I'm sure it will be soon."
Sanders has said Harris does not have any trips to the border planned in the near future.
Meanwhile, experts have acknowledged that Republicans will likely use this particular line of attack against Harris regardless.
Jose Dante Parra, a former adviser to Senate Democratic leaders, told the Los Angeles Times, "I don't think Republicans are going to let people make that distinction."
"They’re going to keep messaging that she’s in charge of the border situation," said Parra, now an adviser to immigration advocacy organizations.
Harris, for her part, has been busy carrying out the task she was assigned.
On March 30, she spoke with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei about the risks to those making the journey to the southern border, according to an emailed readout of their call, as well as the United States' plans to provide more humanitarian aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The leaders agreed to work together on economic development, technology, climate resilience, and creating opportunities for people in their home countries.
On Wednesday, Harris also spoke with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador about collaborating to address poverty, violence, and lack of economic opportunities, among other root causes of immigration from Central America, according to an email readout of that call.
The two also discussed reinforcing the countries' bilateral relationship to take on human smuggling and trafficking.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.