When President Joe Biden announced this week that he had tasked Vice President Kamala Harris with handling a portion of his administration’s border policy amid a mounting immigration surge, speculation abounded that the vice president would be taking on an outsized role in the matter.
In a subsequent statement, however, a top Harris aide clarified that she was merely taking the lead in “diplomatic talks” with relevant nations in addressing the border problem. Symone Sanders addressed reporters on Friday when she fielded a question on the topic.
“Not doing the border”
“I will just reiterate that the vice president is not doing the border,” she said during a flight to Connecticut alongside Harris.
Instead, Sanders noted that the vice president’s talks with Central American countries would seek to address the “root causes” behind a spike in arrivals by undocumented migrants.
“The president asked the vice president to take on the diplomatic effort, with Mexico and countries in the Northern Triangle to address the root causes of migration,” she said. “There are many reasons that move these folks to make this dangerous journey.”
So far, Sanders said that Harris had already made a “number of calls” to pertinent Central American officials. As for a possible trip to the U.S.-Mexico border, however, she noted that there are no plans “in the near future” for Harris.
“This is not work that will be addressed overnight,” Sanders added. “This is a challenging situation, as you heard the vice president speak to but it’s diplomatic work that needs to be done and Vice President Harris is looking forward to doing it.”
“Speaking with leaders from the region”
Harris has also received a high-level briefing on the situation in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, known collectively as the “Northern Triangle,” Sanders said.
“You can expect she will be speaking with leaders from the region in the near future,” she noted.
Biden said during his remarks on Wednesday that Harris would be taking the lead in diplomatic matters related to the border, but he left the scope of her responsibilities open to interpretation.
“So it’s not her full responsibility and job, but she’s leading the effort because I think the best thing to do is to put someone who, when he or she speaks, they don’t have to wonder about is that where the president is,” he said at the time. “When she speaks, she speaks for me. Doesn’t have to check with me. She knows what she’s doing, and I hope we can move this along.”
While Biden and Harris have yet to visit the border or announce plans to do so, former President Donald Trump is said to be considering a trip of his own. For the time being, however, an adviser said he is waiting out of respect for the political optics and to allow the Biden administration an opportunity to lead.