Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday claimed she “didn’t understand the point” when pressed on why she hasn’t visited the US-Mexico border amid a deepening crisis that she has been appointed to oversee — saying she hasn’t “been to Europe” either.
“At some point, you know, we are going to the border,” a defensive Harris told NBC anchor Lester Holt on “Today” in Guatemala on her first international trip since taking office.
“We’ve been to the border. So this whole thing about the border. We’ve been to the border,” Harris said to which Holt replied, “You haven’t been to the border.”
Harris countered, “And I haven’t been to Europe. And I mean, I don’t, understand the point that you’re making. I’m not discounting the importance of the border.”
Holt pointed out that she’s ignored calls to visit from not only Republican lawmakers, but Congressman Henry Cuellar, a Democrat who represents a border district in Texas.
“I care about what’s happening at the border. I’m in Guatemala because my focus is dealing with the root causes of migration,” she said.
“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. And so that’s what I’m doing.”
Harris, however, admitted that the work fixing the “root causes” of the border crisis will “take time to manifest itself.”
“There is not going to be a quick fix. We are not going to see an immediate return. But we’re going to see progress,” Harris said.
“The real work is going to take time to manifest itself. Will it be worth it? Yes. Will it take some time? Yes.”
In the sitdown interview, Harris was also pressed on why Guatemalan migrants should heed her warning not to flock to the US border when others are able to illegally cross.
“I’ve been working on this issue for a very long time. And the kind of violence and danger that is associated with that trek, especially when we’re talking about from Guatemala through Mexico to the United States,” Harris said.
“It is extremely dangerous. We are looking at a situation where people are fleeing because of hunger, because of the hurricanes, because of the pandemic. So the reason I am here is to address those issue, knowing that the people who are here for generations, they want to stay. They don’t want to leave. But they need opportunity, they need assistance, they need support.”
The Biden administration’s undoing of former President Donald Trump’s border policies has prompted a flood of Central American and Mexican illegal migrants at the US border, including thousands of unescorted children.
Central Americans looking for refuge from the Northern Triangle countries — Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — have taken these policy moves, as well as the overwhelmingly more welcoming tone from Democrats, as a sign that Biden is inviting them to cross the border.
Insisting that the border was not facing a crisis, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in early March that the problems the agency faced should be blamed on the previous administration.
The data, however, overwhelmingly shows that migrants were flooding the border because they believed Biden would welcome them with open arms.
As the crisis heated up, Biden tapped his vice president to address the diplomatic measures related to its “root causes.”
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said in a CBS News interview that aired Sunday ahead of his meeting with Harris that the Biden administration is to blame for sparking the migration crisis.
The Guatemalan president said he and Harris “are not on the same side of the coin” on migration.
“We asked the United States government to send more of a clear message to prevent more people from leaving,” Giammattei said.
When Biden took office, “The message changed too: ‘We’re going to reunite families, we’re going to reunite children,’” he said. “The very next day, the coyotes were here organizing groups of children to take them to the United States.”