VP Harris on Visiting Central America: 'I Can't Get There Soon Enough,' But 'We Have to Deal With COVID Issues'

By Susan Jones | April 26, 2021 | 5:34am EDT
President Joe Biden tasks Vice President Kamala Harris with leading the diplomatic effort to stem illegal migration from Central America and Mexico on March 24, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden tasks Vice President Kamala Harris with leading the diplomatic effort to stem illegal migration from Central America and Mexico on March 24, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - On March 24, President Biden announced that Vice President Kamala Harris would lead his administration's "diplomatic effort" to stem the flow of illegal immigration. He said she would work with Northern Triangle countries and Mexico to "accept the returnees and enhance migration enforcement at their border."

A month later, as the border crisis mounts in the United States, Harris still has not visited the overrun Southwest border since she took office; and although she's spoken by phone with the leaders of Mexico and Guatemala, she has not traveled to those countries.

"Are you going to go there?" CNN's Dana Bash asked Harris on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. Bash was talking about the northern triangle countries.

"Yes," Harris responded:

We're working on the plan to get there. We have to deal with COVID issues, but I can't get there soon enough, in terms of personally getting there. And then, and then we have to also look at the piece about community-based organizations.

So, for example, this week, in addition -- or next week, in addition to meeting again with the president of Guatemala, I will be meeting the following day with the community-based organizations in Guatemala -- they call them, basically, civil society -- to figure out how we can better assist what they're doing on the ground in a way, again, that they can give the resources to people who naturally want to stay at home and give them some sense of hope that help is on the way.

This is the work that we're doing. But it's not going to be solved overnight. It's a complex issue. Listen, if this were easy, it would have been handled years ago.

(Harris received the Moderna COVID vaccine on live television in December, before taking office. On Sunday, she and host Dana Bash spoke to each other from across a room, neither one wearing a mask. Both are fully vaccinated.)

Harris said her perspective on illegal immigration is that "most people don't want to leave home."

And when they do, it's usually for one of two reasons. They're fleeing some harm or they cannot stay and satisfy the basic necessities of life, such as feeding their children and having a roof over their head. That's the -- that is part of -- a big part of what is going on. So, I look at the issue of what's going on in the Northern Triangle from that perspective.

And then my take on it is that we have got to -- understanding that, we have to give people some sense of hope that, if they stay, that help is on the way.

And that brings me to then my focus, which is, for example, I convened a group of members of our Cabinet, secretary of agriculture, secretary of commerce, the head of USAID, which is our aid organization. Tony Blinken, secretary of state, was a part of it. Jake Sullivan was a part of it.

And bringing together members of our Cabinet to do what, for example, is going to happen out of Commerce, which is, they're going to convene a trade mission, virtually now, and the hope is in person later, with Agriculture. Tom Vilsack is going to increase our focus and our resources around helping the farmers in that region who have been devastated by crisis in terms of climate and drought.

USAID, we're increasing our disaster response because, again, of the hurricanes. So, this is the kind of work that has to happen. The kind of work that has to happen is the diplomatic work that we have been engaged in, including my calls to the president of Mexico, the president of Guatemala. And we have a plan to actually have another meeting coming up soon.

Harris said the Biden administration is "making progress, but it's not going to evidence itself overnight."

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