WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris won’t be on the ground at the Southwest border anytime soon as she leads efforts to address a rise in migrants trying to enter the country.
Harris has no plans to visit the U.S.-Mexico border region “in the near future,” spokeswoman Symone Sanders said Friday.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday asked the vice president to lead diplomatic efforts aimed at addressing a rise in the number of migrants, many of whom come from the three Northern Triangle countries of Central America. Sanders said Harris will go to the border at some point but emphasized the diplomatic nature of the vice president’s role.
“The vice president is not doing the border,” Sanders told reporters on a flight to Connecticut, where Harris was promoting the administration’s COVID-19 relief package.
Harris has received an extensive briefing on the Northern Triangle and Latin America and will soon start the diplomatic part of her mission. “You can expect she will be speaking with leaders from the region in the near future,” Sanders said.
The Biden administration is backing a proposal to provide $7 billion in assistance to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. It believes such support can address the poverty and violence that leads people to flee their homelands for the U.S.
U.S. authorities apprehended more than 100,000 people as they attempted to cross the border in February, the most since spring 2019. The Biden administration is turning most people away under a public health order issued at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak but is allowing unaccompanied children and teens and some families to stay, at least temporarily, in the country.
The increase has strained the capacity of the Border Patrol and the Department of Health and Human Services, which holds the minors in shelters until they can be placed with relatives or sponsors in the U.S. while authorities determine whether they have a legal right to remain in the country, either through asylum or for some other reason.
It has also turned into a political headache for Biden. Republicans have blamed the new administration for the increase in migrants, saying the president encouraged people to come by halting construction on the border wall project, ending restrictions on asylum imposed by former President Donald Trump and backing legislation that would allow millions of people already in the country to eventually become U.S. citizens.