White House officials are downplaying Kamala Harris’ first major public charge against the administration as statistics from the Department of Homeland Security show the number of migrants crossing the border could double this year.
The stunning reassessment comes as the border situation turns into a public relations nightmare for the administration. New photos show children on rafts crossing the Rio Grande, lawmakers have released photos of children sleeping on the floors of crowded shelters wrapped in silver foil blankets, and government figures predict more migrants coming.
And given public perception that Harris is in charge of President Joe Biden’s border policy, White House officials said the vice president will play a “ diplomatic role ” in the crisis and focus on addressing the “ underlying causes’ behind the rise of migrants.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday gave what she called a “clarification” about Harris’s role, saying there was “confusion” about what the vice president should do.
The Vice President of the United States will help direct that effort – specifically the root causes, not the frontier. There is some confusion about that, ”she said at her press conference.
A ‘coyote’ people smuggler escorts an inflatable boat with migrants from Central America illegally coming to the US from Mexico to seek asylum on the Rio Grande River near the border town of Roma
Migrants from Central America, who have come to the US illegally from Mexico to apply for asylum, get off an inflatable boat after crossing the Rio Grande River before surrendering to border guards.
White House officials downplay Kamala Harris’ first major public charge against government as frontier PR crisis grows for President Joe Biden White House
And Symone Sanders, a Harris spokesperson, told reporters last week that “the vice president doesn’t do the border” but “tackles the root causes of migration.”
She added that President Biden Harris had ordered “to undertake those diplomatic efforts.”
Harris has not announced a trip to the border and has not given a public press interview about her new role.
Her office said she has been “extensively” briefed on the Northern Triangle and the situation in Latin America and will be speaking to leaders in the region shortly.
But she will not attend a two-part briefing at the border that the government is organizing for parliamentarians on Wednesday. Home Security Minister Alejandro Mayorkas and Health and Human Services Minister Xavier Becerra will lead the virtual briefing, CNN reported, and the vice president will not be a part of it.
The clarification on her role comes after President Joe Biden announced that Harris would lead the government’s efforts with Mexico and the northern triangular countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to stop the “ serious spike ” in immigration.
“ I asked her, the VP today because she is the most qualified person to do it to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle and the countries that need help in stopping the movement of so many people who have the migration to our southern border, ”he said in his announcement last week.
She is leading the effort. The best you can do is post someone when he or she speaks, they don’t have to wonder where the president is. She speaks for me, ”he said of his vice president. “She knows what she’s doing.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland expects that about 500,000 to 800,000 migrants will arrive as part of a family group during the 2021 fiscal year ending in September, according to a data analysis from The Washington Post
That could be double from fiscal year 2020, when 458,088 people were found at the southern border, said Data from US Customs and Border Guards
In addition, internal administration leaked to Axios show that unaccompanied minor arrests are expected to rise to 26,000 in September.
This month, about 16,000 minors crossed the border, a record high.
According to CBP data, 5,767 children were detained by customs and border guards on Sunday, compared to 5,495 children on Thursday. And there are 11,886 children under the care of Health and Human Services.
Combining the figures from HHS and CBP, Biden’s administration has more than 17,500 children in custody.
In comparison, in May 2019, when Donald Trump was president and his border crisis was at its height, 11,475 unaccompanied children were arrested by border security officers.
In June 2014, during the peak of children on the border, 10,620 unaccompanied children were arrested by US Border Patrol.
Migrants from Central America – The Department of Homeland expects approximately 500,000 to 800,000 migrants to arrive as part of a family group by fiscal year 2021
A little girl from Ecuador gets off a raft after crossing the Rio Grande River
Republican lawmakers have criticized the Biden administration over its border policy – Senator Ted Cruz led a tour last week, releasing photos of his visit to a crowded migrant shelter in Donna, Texas.
The pressure on the Biden administration is heightened by Republican lawmakers, who have visited the border to slam the White House before the crisis. They blame Biden for reversing Donald Trump’s stricter policies for the wave, which they are trying to turn into a hot-button political issue ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz led 18 fellow GOP senators on a border trip last week. He posted multiple photos and videos of the group joining border agents on a midnight patrol of the Rio Grande River. He also posted photos of children being held in busy conditions – many sleeping on the floor – at one of the CBP’s shelters in Donna, Texas.
“Democrats like to pretend their open-border policies are somehow humane,” Cruz told Fox News Sunday.
“There’s nothing human about what Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are doing on the border. They subject children to horrific abuse, they endanger their lives in a pandemic by locking them up in cages on top of each other, ”he said. “This is a humanitarian, health and national security crisis.”