Vice President Kamala Harris speaks while President Joe Biden looks on during a listening session with Georgia-American and Pacific Islander executives at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia on March 19, 2021.
Eric Baradat | AFP | Getty Images
President Joe Biden, whose government is grappling with overcrowding in migrant facilities on the southern border, appointed Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday to lead coordination efforts with Mexico and the Central American nations of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
The contract marks Harris’ first major political role since he was sworn in in January.
“I can’t think of anyone better qualified to do this,” Harris said at the White House. “When she speaks, she speaks for me, doesn’t have to ask me.”
The Vice President will work to stem the influx of people who come to the border, thousands of whom are unaccompanied children. Biden, among other reversals in Trump-era immigration policy, ended the previous administration’s practice of excluding unaccompanied minors.
However, the recent surge in migrants has quickly overwhelmed border guards and processing plants struggling with residue and overcrowding.
Harris called the border situation “a big problem” this week.
“The climb that we are dealing with now has begun [with] the final government, but it is our responsibility to be human and stop what is happening, “Biden said on Wednesday.
He said Harris “agreed to lead our diplomatic efforts and work with these nations to accept this.” [returning migrants] and improving enforcement of migration at its borders. “
Harris thanked Biden “for your trust”.
“The work will not be easy, but it is important work,” she said. “It is work that we ask, and I believe the people of our countries need to help stem the tide we saw.”
Beyond the short-term challenges, Harris will work to strengthen diplomatic ties with Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to address the root causes of migration problems in the region.
It also plans to coordinate with international organizations and private sector bodies as part of its efforts, officials said.
Harris spoke to Ricardo Zuniga, Biden’s new special envoy for the Northern Triangle, on Wednesday and will work closely with him, they said.
At the White House, Biden said Harris’ previous experience as the California attorney general made her well-suited for this new responsibility.
Even so, he admitted to Harris that “I gave you a tough job”.