WASHINGTON (AP) – Vice President Kamala Harris will not be at the Southwest border any time soon as she leads efforts to address the surge in migrants trying to enter the country.
Harris has no plans to visit the US-Mexico border region “in the near future,” spokeswoman Symone Sanders said Friday.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden asked the vice president to lead diplomatic efforts aimed at addressing a surge in the number of migrants, many of whom come from the three Northern Triangle countries of Central America. Sanders said Harris will go to the border at some point, but emphasized the diplomatic nature of the vice president’s role.
“The vice president is not making the border,” Sanders told reporters on a flight to Connecticut, where Harris was promoting the administration’s COVID-19 relief package.
Harris has received extensive information on the Northern Triangle and Latin America and will soon begin the diplomatic part of his mission. “He can be expected to speak with leaders in the region in the near future,” Sanders said.
The Biden administration supports a proposal to provide $ 7 billion in assistance to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He believes that such support can address the poverty and violence that lead people to flee their home countries to the United States.
US authorities detained more than 100,000 people while trying to cross the border in February, the most since spring 2019. The Biden administration is turning away most of the people under a public health order issued at the start of the COVID outbreak. -19, but it is allowing unaccompanied children and adolescents and some families to stay, at least temporarily, in the country.
The increase has tested the ability of the Border Patrol and the Department of Health and Human Services, which keeps minors in shelters until they can be placed with family members or sponsors in the U.S. While authorities determine if they have the legal right to stay in the country. country, either through asylum or for some other reason.
It has also become a political headache for Biden. Republicans have blamed the new administration for the surge in migrants, saying the president encouraged people to come by halting construction on the border wall project, ending asylum restrictions imposed by former President Donald Trump and backing the legislation that would allow millions of people already in the country to eventually become US citizens.
Senator Ted Cruz led a delegation of lawmakers to the border area on Friday. He tweeted photos of dozens of minors, wrapped in space blankets like aluminum foil, lying on the floor of the crowded Border Patrol facility. “This is a humanitarian and public health crisis,” the Texas Republican said.
Biden, in a news conference Thursday, vowed to step up efforts to get teens and children out of crowded Border Patrol facilities and into HHS shelters more quickly, but the overall situation does not appear to be improving.
A senior Border Patrol official told reporters Friday that encounters with migrants along the southwestern border have averaged about 5,000 people per day during March, which would be an increase of about 50% over February. if those figures are maintained throughout the month.
Of the total, about 450 to 500 a day are unaccompanied minors, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss preliminary figures.
It is not unusual to see an increase in migrants crossing the border at this time of year, and the Border Patrol has faced similar situations in the past, the official said. But the large number of teens and children and space limitations resulting from the pandemic have made this year especially difficult.