After long denying that the recent deluge of illegal crossings at the U.S.–Mexico border has amounted to a crisis, President Joe Biden announced this week that he is putting Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of dealing with it.
According to C-SPAN, the remarks from Biden came ahead of a meeting with Cabinet and immigration officials at the White House on Wednesday.
“I said when we became a team and got elected, that the vice president was going to be the last person in the room,” Biden said, laughing, according to a White House transcript. “She didn’t realize that means she gets every assignment.”
“She speaks for me”
Biden went on to outline his reasons for putting Harris at the helm. Among them: her supposed competency in the area.
“There’s about five other major things she’s handling, but I’ve asked her, the VP, today — because she’s the most qualified person to do it — to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle and the countries that…are going to need help in stemming the movement of so many folks, stemming the migration to our southern border,” the president said.
“When she speaks, she speaks for me,” Biden later added.
“Doesn’t have to check with me,” he said of Harris. “She knows what she’s doing and I hope we can move this along.”
Biden’s decision to task Harris with helping manage the crisis at the border is something of an admission that the situation there has gotten out of hand. But in the same breath, the commander-in-chief was quick to blame his predecessor.
“This new surge we’re dealing with now started with the last administration, but it’s our responsibility to deal with it humanely and to stop what’s happening,” Biden insisted Wednesday, according to the transcript.
“A challenging situation”
Harris, for her part, thanked the president Wednesday for expressing confidence in her, but emphasized that would-be migrants should remain where they are.
“There’s no question that this is a challenging situation,” she said, according to the transcript. “While we are clear that people should not come to the border now, we also understand that we will enforce the law and that we also — because we can chew gum and walk at the same time — must address the root causes that cause people to make the trek, as the president has described, to come here.”
Notably, VP’s comments stand in sharp contrast to the president’s campaign rhetoric. According to Fox News, Biden said during a 2019 Democratic presidential primary debate: “We’re a nation that says, ‘You want to flee, and you’re fleeing oppression, you should come.'”