Biden Names Kamala Harris President Of Immigration
President Joe Biden yesterday put Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of fixing immigration issues at the US-Mexico border, yet another in a long list of messes left by the previous administration. In addition to sorting out the logistics of the current increase in arrivals of unaccompanied minors, Harris will lead the administration's discussions with Mexico and the three "Northern Triangle" countries in Central America, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, to improve conditions in those home countries so people will be less inclined to migrate to the US.
NBC News reports that
A senior administration official said Harris' role would focus on "two tracks": both curbing the current flow of migrants and implementing a long-term strategy that addresses the root causes of migration. Cabinet members, including the secretary of state, are expected to work closely with Harris on these issues.
At a meeting on immigration yesterday, Biden said that he'd learned from his time working on immigration issues as Barack Obama's veep that "if you deal with the problems in the country, it benefits everyone." He said the previous occupant of the White House had largely ignored issues that drove migration, from gang violence to damage caused by natural disasters. But Joe what about the all the big ugly fences we got? Weren't they worth it?
Harris acknowledged that "there is no question that this is a challenging situation," and
said she planned to work with a number of stakeholders including the private sector, civil society and members of Congress who share the administration's interest in addressing the root causes of migration.
So it's a heck of a big job, but Harris seems like a great choice to handle it. NBC News says that Harris and Biden have already established a close working relationship, and that a "senior administration official" said Biden thought her work as California's attorney general would be useful to her, particularly her experience dealing with human rights and with organized crime. That official notes that "Biden has said over and over again that 'the person I trust most, the person I turn to when there's a hard issue, is Kamala Harris'."
Harris's biggest challenge will be balancing the goal of reducing undocumented immigration while also respecting migrants' rights, a matter that the previous administration didn't much bother with. At the meeting yesterday, Harris emphasized those goals:
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.
While Republicans have been trying to hype up the problems at the border — and there really are issues with adequately housing all the minors, mostly older teenagers, who have been crossing the border to request asylum — NBC News also points out that
Undocumented immigration tends to increase seasonally in the early spring after the cold winter months and ahead of the summer when border crossings can be deadly. While data shows a sharper increase in border crossings this spring compared to previous seasons, some experts say that increase is expected given the pent-up demand from people who had delayed their journeys amid the pandemic.
So yes, the overcrowding in border facilities needs to be solved; the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the Health and Human Services Department, has been opening up more shelters to accommodate the kids who are crossing the border until they can be placed with sponsors, usually family members already living in the US. One thing that will help is that Team Biden recently terminated the odious Trump administration policy that shared HHS information on sponsors with ICE, which led to people being arrested and deported when they tried to get kids out of HHS custody.
We're pretty confident Harris will be up to the job. For instance, she's already opposed by just the right people, like Arizona's Republican Governor Doug Ducey, who whined that, "At no point in her career has she given any indication that she considers the border a problem or a serious threat." That's probably because people fleeing horrible situations in their home countries aren't a threat, dude. If we really want to ease problems at the border, we'll need to work with the countries people are coming from, so they'll have less reason to leave. Yes, madness, we know.
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