Biden hands over record migrant crisis to Kamala Harris – after VP laughed when asked if she’d visit border
JOE Biden has handed over the record migrant crisis to Kamala Harris just days after she laughed when she was asked if she would visit the border.
The president said that he "can think of nobody better qualified" than his running mate.
Biden added that when Harris is in control of the issue, American leaders "don’t have to wonder if that’s where the president is," adding that the VP "speaks for me."
The role means that Harris will serve as the lead person to tackle the issue, and will represent Mexico and Central American countries.
The announcement comes just days after Harris laughed when she was asked if she has plans to visit the border as pictures show groups of migrant children living in overcrowded pens.
"Not today," Harris responded to the question before bursting out into laughter outside of Air Force One. "But I have before, and I'm sure I will again."
The former California senator offered the response during a Monday visit to Jacksonville, Florida, to promote the passage of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, known as the America Rescue Plan.
Video of the exchange quickly spread to social media, eliciting the ire of Republicans who blasted Harris for not treating the border situation with the seriousness it deserves.
"While VP Harris laughs off a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions, Republicans are focused on securing the border and responding to the needs of our Border Patrol agents on the front lines," House Minority Leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy wrote on Twitter.
Similarly, Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko added: "First, the Biden Administration refused to admit the situation at the border is a crisis, NOW Kamala Harris thinks this is a laughing matter.
"It isn't a laughing matter for the border communities being deluged by illegal immigrants."
Having previously stated he had no plans to visit the crossing, President Joe Biden, meanwhile, said on Sunday that he will make the trip "at some point" when pressed on the matter.
Just two months into his presidential term, Biden is facing intense scrutiny for his administration's response to the mounting crisis at the US-Mexico border.
Several thousands migrants, many of whom are unaccompanied children, have been flocking to the border since Biden's inauguration in quantities not seen in over two decades.
Shocking images released Monday by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) revealed what he described as "terrible" conditions inside inside a temporary overflow facility in Donna, Texas.
The pictures showed groups of migrants crammed together in small "pods" and penned in by plastic sheeting.
The Biden administration has prohibited media coverage in and around the facilities, but amid mounting scrutiny, the White House released its first official images from inside two Texas detention centers, including Donna.
The government-sanctioned footage and photos, shot last week and released by CBP on Tuesday, depicts a crowded but orderly facility in Donna, with children sleeping shoulder-to-shoulder on mats on the floor.
The video also shows shelves from inside the facility stocked with items including, diapers, water, hand sanitizer and food.
In another scene, a line of unaccompanied children are seen wearing facemasks as they wait to get their temperatures checked.
The four-minute clip also showcases an outdoor recreational area without children, where they are supposed to be permitted to go outside at least twice a day.
Last week, around the same time the video was shot, lawyers for some of the children detained told ABC the kids were only aloud to go outside in the courtyard for around 20 minutes, every few days.
A three-minute video from an El Paso CBP holding facility depicts similar scenes, though appears less crowded.
Children are seen laughing and playing outdoors in one brief clip.
In a statement accompanying the photos, the CBP said it is working to "balance the need for public transparency and accountability."
"CBP continues to transfer unaccompanied minors to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as quickly and efficiently as possible after they are apprehended on the Southwest Border," the statement read.
"In order to protect the health and safety of our workforce and those in our care we continue to discourage external visitors in our facilities; however, CBP is working to balance the need for public transparency and accountability."
The agency continued: "Still imagery and video are now available of the Donna Processing Center in Donna, Texas, and the Central Processing Center in El Paso, Texas."
CBP released the footage less than 24 hours after Cuellar unveiled secretly taken photos at the crowded Donna facility.
The Democrat told Axios that as of Sunday, at least one pod was holding more than 400 unaccompanied male minors.
Cuellar described the setting as "terrible conditions for the children" and said they need to quickly be moved into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services.
While Cueller believes border agents are "doing the best they can" with the government's long-term child shelters and family detention centers full, the Democrat said the temporary tents are not "equipped to care for kids".
Urging the Biden administration to step in and help, Cuellar said: "We have to stop kids and families from making the dangerous trek across Mexico to come to the United States.
"We have to work with Mexico and Central American countries to have them apply for asylum in their countries."
CBP Facilities are currently at capacity under coronavirus protocol, and the Rio Grande Valley sector, which includes Donna, has even far exceeded its non-pandemic limits.
As of Saturday, a total of 10,000 migrants were in CBP custody, nearly half of whom were unaccompanied minors.
Of those children, 823 have been held at facilities for more than 10 days, a more than fourfold increase on the week prior, and 2,226 have been held for more than five.
This comes despite the CBP having a three-day limit for detaining children.
Many of those being held have reportedly be prohibited from phoning their parents or any other relatives who may be wondering where they are, reports say.
While thousands more migrants are expected to arrive at the border in the weeks ahead, the Biden administration has so far refused to refer to the unfolding chaos as a "crisis".
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki maintained that stance during a Monday press conference, referring to the situation at the border as a "circumstance".
"Children presenting at our border who are fleeing violence, who are fleeing prosecution, who are fleeing terrible situations is not a crisis," Psaki said.
"We feel it is our responsibility to humanely approach this circumstance and make sure they are treated, and put into conditions that are safe."
Psaki also said the administration is "working to finalize details" on potentially allowing the press access to the facilities.
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