Vice President Kamala Harris says there isn’t going to be a “quick fix” to the migrant surge from Central America and dismissed those who have criticized her for failing to visit the U.S. southern border to see the crisis firsthand.
“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,” Ms. Harris told NBC’s Lester Holt in an interview set to air later Tuesday.
Congressional Republicans and others say Ms. Harris must see the surge for herself to understand the problem and fix it. President Biden tasked his No. 2 with finding ways to stem the problem — part of a long and growing to-do list for Ms. Harris.
“She’s not even in her home state of California, which has a border with Mexico. She’s in Guatemala,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican. “Imagine calling 911 when your home is on fire and watching as they hose down your neighbor’s house instead. That’s what it feels like.”
The White House says Ms. Harris is focused on ways to fix root causes through diplomacy. She is meeting with key leaders from Guatemala and Mexico to find ways to improve living conditions in the Northern Triangle countries so migrants don’t flee and cross into the U.S. illegally.
“I care about what’s happening at the border. I’m in Guatemala because my focus is dealing with the root causes of migration,” Ms. Harris said. “There may be some who think that that is not important, but it is my firm belief that if we care about what’s happening at the border, we better care about the root causes and address them. And so that’s what I’m doing.”
Ms. Harris cited hunger, hurricanes and the pandemic as among the reasons people take the perilous journey to Central America. Also, corruption and rampant violence in home countries are frequently cited reasons.
“The reason I am here is to address those issues, knowing that the people who are here for generations, they want to stay. They don’t want to leave. But they need opportunity, they need assistance, they need support,” she said.
Ms. Harris downplayed the idea that aiding Guatemala and other countries to get those governments to rein in migration is a “quid pro quo,” characterizing it as a way to help neighbors. She also lowered expectations for a quick turnaround.
“We are not going to see an immediate return. But we’re going to see progress,” she said. “The real work is going to take time to manifest itself. Will it be worth it? Yes. Will it take some time? Yes.”