White House staffers gave the thumbs-down to the claimed success of Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Latin America this week, CNN reported.
The Democrat-allied CNN learned from unnamed sources the White House is concerned her lackluster response during an NBC News interview that aired Tuesday as to if she will visit the border will overshadow her trip and render it unsuccessful.
The network reported Tuesday:
Vice President Kamala Harris endured a rocky first foreign trip since taking office, with sources telling CNN her two-day swing through Mexico and Guatemala left some administration officials quietly perplexed about what they perceive as her bumpy answers to questions about whether she will go to the US-Mexico border.
Several sources say there was a real hope inside the White House that Harris’ first trip abroad would be a success, and worry that what looked like ill-prepared answers to that inevitable question would overshadow it.
Harris has resisted a bipartisan push to visit the border even after President Joe Biden tasked her with leading the White House response to the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico line and address the “root causes” fueling the record surge of migrants predominantly from the Central American Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
“At some point, you know, we are going to the border. We’ve been to the border [in the past],” Harris told NBC’s Lester Holt.
“You haven’t been to the border,” Holt retorted, prompting Harris to say with a laugh, “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.”
The VP and her team are keeping a distance from the border crisis because they believe it could be politically damaging to Harris’s ambition to become president one day, CNN reported earlier this month, citing anonymous administration officials and experts who say addressing the migration drivers will require dealing with the situation at the border.
VP Harris insists that managing the southern border is not part of the Biden-assigned mission.
“Do I declare this trip a success? Yes, I do. It is success in terms of a pathway that is about progress. We have been successful in making progress,” the VP asserted, while briefing reporters in Mexico Tuesday.
“I care about this and 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 while in Guatemala.
Harris and her team claim Biden mischaracterized her mission as one having to do with the border crisis, CNN added earlier this month.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, appeared to support that notion, telling reporters Tuesday, “What her focus has been, what the assignment is specifically, is to work with leaders in the Northern Triangle. She’s on a trip doing exactly that, exactly what the President asked her to do.”
That is a change from what Biden said Harris’ mission was in March.
In addition to charging Harris with addressing the “root causes” of migration from Central America, “I’ve asked her … to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle … [in] stemming the migration to our southern border,” the president said on March 24.
Once back in the U.S. from Mexico and Guatemala Wednesday, marking her first international trip as VP, Harris also caught flak from Republicans and leading progressives in her own Democrat party, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported Wednesday.
GOP lawmakers accused the VP of not taking seriously the surge of predominantly Central American migrants from the Northern Triangle countries, including many unescorted children and families.
Meanwhile, leading progressive Democrat voices in Congress also blasted Harris for urging migrants seeking to make the dangerous trip to the United States not to come because they “will be turned back,” during a press conference in Guatemala.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC) condemned Harris’ warnings as “disappointing,” adding on Twitter:
First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100% legal method of arrival. Second, the US spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America. We can’t help set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for fleeing.
“This whole ‘stay there and die’ approach is not how our country will promote a more humane and just immigration system,” Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), an AOC ally, added via Twitter.
The Biden administration does allow some illegal migrants and asylum-seekers into U.S. communities, releasing many of them without court dates despite keeping in place Trump-era pandemic control protocols (Title 42) that allow for the quick removal of any migrant.
“Everything Joe and Kamala have done has sent exactly the opposite message” from Harris’ “do not come” remark, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told Fox News on Tuesday.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) noted via Twitter, “The VP’s campaign to address the ‘root causes’ of illegal immigration won’t solve our current crisis. We can’t eradicate poverty and crime here at home, let alone across all of Latin America. Our free enterprise system will always lure people in search of better opportunities.”