Joe Biden has made ‘about the worst possible choice’ in putting Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of the border, the Republican governor of Arizona has said, as critics pointed to her previous statements as evidence of her being unfit for the role.
Biden on Wednesday announced that Harris was heading up his administration’s approach to the U.S.-Mexico border, as they scrambled to get a grip on the increasingly fraught situation.
‘She’s leading the effort,’ he said.
‘The best thing to do is put someone when he or she speaks, they don’t have to wonder about is that where the president is.
‘She speaks for me. She knows what she’s doing.’
The White House on Wednesday was further facing anger at its continued refusal to allow media access to the border camps where children were being held.
The Department of Homeland Security’s facilities were opened for press trips, and an MSNBC reporter, Gabe Gutierrez, spoke of smiling youngsters playing soccer, meeting with lawyers and sleeping in dormitories of four people. There are 766 children in total, he said – and 108 of them have tested positive for COVID, so are being kept in negative-pressure areas.
The busier and more concerning center, run by the Customs and Border Patrol in Donna, Texas, however, remained off limits.
Vice President Kamala Harris said there is ‘no question this is a challenging situation’
Biden asked Harris to work to stem a ‘serious spike’ in immigration at the border
Gabe Gutierrez from MSNBC was allowed to enter the Carrizo Springs site, but not Donna
Intensive care tents seen at Carrizo Springs’ Influx Care Facility for unaccompanied children
The Biden administration allowed a photographer into the Carrizo Springs camp for children
Bright, clean classrooms at Carrizo Springs are very different to overcrowded Donna camp
Unaccompanied migrant children were housed in dormitories of four people
The reporters taken around the Carrizo Springs facility were shown children playing soccer
‘The White House hand-picked a TV crew to accompany their trip to the Carrizo Springs, NOT the Donna facility,’ said Ted Cruz, the Texas senator.
‘That’s not transparency.
‘True transparency would be to open the Donna facility to press that’s at 1,556% capacity when 18 Senators go there Friday.’
Cruz said the children at the CBP facility were ‘hungry, have only showered once in 7 days, were forced to sleep on the floor, and haven’t seen sunlight in days.’
He added: ‘If the Biden admin was truly committed to being transparent about the crisis on the border, they would grant media access to the Donna facility.’
And critics of Harris, who was California’s attorney general before she became a senator, were swift to voice their concern.
Piles of clean clothing were shown to the press at Carrizo Springs migrant center in Texas
The U.S. government was determined on Wednesday to show the children were well cared for
Reporters were shown children playing basketball as migration staff looked on on Tuesday
‘I have been informed that Vice President Kamala Harris has been put in charge of border security,’ said Doug Ducey, the Republican governor of Arizona, which has 370 miles of border with Mexico.
‘She’s about the worst possible choice that one could make.
‘In no point in her career has she given any indication that she considers the border a problem or a serious threat.’
Other critics of Harris pointed out her previous policies.
Josh Hawley, a hardline Republican senator from Missouri, tweeted: ‘This is the person Joe Biden is putting in charge of the border – an advocate for decriminalizing illegal border crossing.’
He was referencing how, during a Democratic primary debate in June 2019, she was among those who raised their hands when asked if they were in favor of decriminalizing border crossings.
When Megan McCain asked her about it on The View, Harris denied it, though she still said the law shouldn’t be criminally enforced.
‘I would not make it a crime punishable by jail. It should be a civil enforcement issue but not a criminal enforcement issue,’ she said.
The year before, as a senator, she had sparked uproar by asking the former Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) acting director, Ronald Vitiello, whether he understood people who compared ICE to the KKK.
‘Are you aware of the perception of many about how the power and the discretion at ICE is being used to enforce the laws and do you see any parallels [with the KKK]?,’ she said.
‘Are you aware that there is a perception that ICE is administering its power in a way that is causing fear and intimidation, particularly among immigrants and specifically among immigrants coming from Mexico and Central America?’
John Cooper, a spokesman for the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, tweeted: ‘VP @KamalaHarris was just named the point person to lead the Biden administration’s response to the border crisis it has created.
‘Let’s take a walk down memory lane and look at some of her recent statements about the border, kids in cages, and more!’
He referenced her previous comparison between the KKK and ICE, and her promise that children would not be kept ‘in cages’.
He pointed out that she said child migrants should not be ‘treated like criminals’, yet her administration was holding thousands.
Hundreds of migrant children test positive for COVID-19
Hundreds of migrant children have tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving at U.S. government shelters over the past year, according to a report on Wednesday.
Among the nearly 2,900 unaccompanied minors to have tested positive, 319 are currently in the system and being held in medical isolation, Axios reported, citing a Department of Health and Human Services official.
Government data obtained by the outlet showed that more than 11,500 kids are currently being held in HHS shelters, meaning about 3 per cent are in isolation with COVID-19.
They are being kept in negative-pressure facilities, in a bid to stop the virus spreading.
He also noted her criticism of ‘human rights abuses’ at the border under the Trump administration, and accused the Biden-Harris administration of doing little better.
‘These are just some of the things Vice Pres. Harris has said about the border. Some are extreme positions, like bragging about making her state a sanctuary state,’ he said.
‘Others show her political opportunism.
‘She is unfit to be handling any response to this border crisis.’
Biden, announcing Harris’ new role, admitted there was a ‘serious spike’ in immigration at the border.
The president announced his decision on Wednesday in a meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on the situation at the border.
Biden announced he has asked Harris ‘to lead our efforts’ with Mexico and other nations that need help in ‘stemming’ immigration.
He described her as the most qualified person for the job, pointing to her work as state attorney general of California.
It is the first time Biden has put his vice president in charge of a specific issue and, in choosing the person he calls the last in the room, Biden indicated how important an issue the border has become.
‘I’ve asked her, the VP today because she’s most qualified person to do it to lead our efforts with Mexico and the northern triangle and the countries that need help in stemming the movement of so many folks stemming migration to our southern border,’ he said.
‘She’s most qualified person to do it to lead our efforts,’ he said.
President Biden and Vice President Harris met with Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas – along with other officials – on the situation at the border
What Vice President Kamala Harris has said on immigration
‘An undocumented immigrant is not a criminal.’
– April 2017
‘This issue of how we are treating our immigrants, and in particular our undocumented immigrants, is one of the most critical issues facing our country. We are not going to be achieving who we say we are as a country if we attack our community members, our neighbors, our friends and our colleagues.’
– Nov. 10, 2016, days after Donald Trump took office
‘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.’
‘At some point, absolutely we will go down to the border and I’ve been down to the border and our secretary of the Homeland Security Alex Mayorkas has been down there twice. Senior administration officials have been down there and yes, we will go.’
‘A wall will not secure our border and I remain concerned those billions of dollars may also be used to implement this Administration’s anti-immigrant agenda—one that targets California and its residents.’
– While voting against 2018 bill with $25 billion in border wall funding.
‘There are a few things more cruel, more inhumane, more fundamentally evil than ripping a child from her parent’s arms. The administration claimed that it wouldn’t separate families seeking asylum if they arrived at an official port of entry, as opposed to other parts of the border. But that didn’t hold true.’
– In her book, The Truths We Hold
The administration has been struggling with a surge in migration at the U.S.-Mexico border but refuses to call the situation a ‘crisis’ even as photos show children being held in crowded conditions in temporary shelters.
Biden spoke of ‘serious spikes’ in people heading to southern border, saying it went back to the Trump administration.
‘What happened was we found that there were serious spike in the number of people heading to the southern border,’ he said.
‘They were coming north and we did nothing to do much about it. There’s no surge we’re dealing with now started with the last administration. It’s our responsibility to deal with it humanely and to stop what’s happening. This increase has been consequential but the vice president agreed among other things and I appreciate it,’ he said.
He told Harris: ‘I gave you a tough job and you’re smiling. There’s no better one to take over try to organize this.’
Harris said there is ‘no question this is a challenging situation.’
‘The work will not be easy,’ she noted. ‘But it is important work.’
She said she will work on diplomatic efforts, including with Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, to help stem the tide of migrants.
Harris also spoke of the importance of combating the factors that drove the migration – such as the persistent scourge of gang violence – in the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
‘As the president said, there are many factors to lead these countries and 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. Let’s address the root causes that cause people to make the trek,’ she said.
In handing over the matter to Harris, Biden is seeking to replicate what he experienced as Barack Obama’s vice president. Obama tapped Biden early in his first term to tackle one of the administration’s most important issues: the White House effort to draw down U.S. troops in the intractable war in Iraq.
More than 16,000 migrant children are currently in U.S. custody amid a surge of border crossings. The administration is on track to open six more emergency shelters to handle the influx.
President Joe Biden acknowledged the ‘serious spikes’ in people heading to southern border
Images from the shelters show children lying packed in like sardines side by side on mattresses on the floors inside a makeshift facility in Donna, Texas
Migrant families pray near the El Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico on Wednesday
Migrants bow their heads in prayer on the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana on Wednesday
Migrants are seen crossing over from Tijuana to San Diego on Tuesday
A child in Tijuana shows off her U.S. passport at the San Ysidro crossing on Tuesday
Republicans have criticized Biden’s handling of the situation, blaming his rollback of stricter Trump-era policies for the surge.
Biden has said he will visit the border at some point, which Harris echoed in an interview with CBS News on Wednesday morning.
‘At some point — absolutely we will go down to the border,’ she said.
The Biden administration has blamed the situation – which they refuse to call a crisis – on the previous Trump administration policies.
‘There are things that we need to do, especially since there was a system in place previously, before last administration, to allow us to process these kids in their country of origin. That was dismantled. We’ve to reconstruct it. It’s not going to happen overnight,’ Harris told CBS’ ‘This Morning.’
‘We are addressing it. We’re dealing with it. But it’s going to take some time,’ she said. ‘And are we frustrated? Are you frustrated? Yes. We are.’
Harris’ new portfolio comes as a delegation of White House officials and members of Congress headed to the border on Wednesday to tour a facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, being used to house migrant children.
More than 750 teenagers are being held at the facility, which is run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The administration is on track to open six more emergency shelters to handle the influx.
A group of migrants follows an official through a neighborhood to an intake area after turning themselves in upon crossing the U.S.-Mexico border
A child rests its head on a table as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer processes migrants after they crossed into the U.S., early Wednesday
The White House announced that one network pooled camera will be allowed inside during the tour and the footage will be shared once the tour concludes.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked why the media were being sent to an ‘aspirational’ facility instead of one of the crowded CBP shelters.
‘We’re also open to providing access there, and this is just the first step in the process of providing greater access to the media to decision,’ she said at her daily press briefing.
‘I would say we all agree that that the Border Patrol facilities are not places where children should be, they are children should be moving more quickly through those facilities that is what our policy central focus is right now,’ she added.
The children are supposed to be held from three days by border patrol and then transferred to more permanent facilities run by DHS.
But the overcrowded conditions have delayed transfers with about 5,000 children estimated to be in border patrol custody.
Psaki said the administration is working on more press access.
‘Our balance is, of course, privacy as you all know. It is also that we are in the middle of a pandemic, and that you know these facilities, of course, can’t become forums for media access all day long every day.
‘I think we all agree on that balance but we will continue to look for ways to increase transparency and provide additional access,’ she said.
Four retired Border Patrol chiefs call situation ‘grave’ and warn ‘criminal organizations are capitalizing on the crisis’ as unaccompanied minors and families distract agents from more dangerous crossers
Four former Border Patrol chiefs called the situation ‘grave’ and warned that ‘criminal organizations are capitalizing on this crisis’ in a first-of-its-kind letter on Wednesday.
The retired Chiefs of the United States Border Patrol were joined by five former Chief Patrol Agents in writing a letter to Congress urging them to address the ‘broken immigration system.’
Former chief patrol agent Roy Villareal, who signed the letter, said ”there is a monumental border issue at the border right now’
Asylum seekers, most from Honduras, walk towards a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico on Tuesday
People are seen on a raft at the U.S.-Mexico border, early on Wednesday in Roma, Texas
‘On behalf of retired Chiefs of the United States Border Patrol, we write with grave concern regarding the current crisis on the southwest border,’ reads the letter.
‘It is time to address our broken immigration system as well as the push and pull factors encouraging mass migration, and its impacts on border security.’
The letter continued: ‘The cycle of broken immigration crises must be a priority for Congress. The patchwork system in place continues to fail us all.’
‘Criminal organizations are capitalizing on this crisis, exploiting these vulnerable unaccompanied children and their families while at the same time utilizing this distraction to overwhelm front-line Border Patrol agents,’ the letter added.
The letter was signed by Border Patrol Chiefs: David V. Aguilar, Ronald Vitiello, Ms. Carla Provost, and Michael Fisher.
Villareal, who retired in December, told Fox News that ‘there is a monumental border issue at the border right now that is going to overwhelm the capabilities of the Border Patrol.’
‘It’s going to cause our system to shut down because as these populations increase, the unaccompanied children, the family units takes away from the ability to do effective border security,’ he said.
Karisch told CNN: ‘This is a problem we’ve had for many years.’
‘Look back at 2014 with the unaccompanied children crisis. We didn’t have the infrastructure then. We definitely were suffering from that same problem under the previous administration,’ he said.
‘This is something that both sides keep pointing fingers at, but unfortunately it’s the agents in the field that are having to deal with a very serious issue but one that also takes them away from their law enforcement responsibilities.’
Former Border Patrol leaders wrote an unprecedented letter to Congress urging them to prioritize the border crisis
On Sunday, it was revealed that Customs and Border Protection was considering a plan to release migrants who crossed the border illegally without first giving them a court date to reappear.
Texas immigration authorities have since been releasing a growing number of migrants from custody into the United States, ABC News reported.
The move means that the burden and responsibility of returning for an asylum hearing is placed on the migrants themselves.
Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar told the outlet: ‘They released about 150 people, families, without even a notice to appear. I’ve never seen that before.’
The news came as Biden officials are blaming the former Trump administration for the border crisis and the number of unaccompanied minors now in custody swelled to more than 15,000 over the weekend.