Why so quiet, Kamala?
Vice President Kamala Harris, the Biden administration’s migration czar, turned and walked away for a second straight day Friday when a reporter asked her about Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott busing 101 migrants to her official residence on Thursday.
“What’s your reaction to the buses that were arriving yesterday?” Harris was asked as she welcomed South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to Washington.
Harris did not respond or react to the inquiry as she entered the Naval Observatory, about 2 miles northwest of the White House.
Second gentleman Doug Emhoff had a more robust response earlier in the day.
“I do have a reaction. I think it was shameful. These are human beings. These are people,” the veep’s husband said at an event promoting updated COVID-19 booster shots.
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“They needed to be treated with dignity and kindness and respect and they weren’t,” Emhoff added. “And we have so-called leaders in this country who, rather than focusing on what’s good for the public within their own states, they’re using people as pawns for a political stunt.”
The silence from Harris came days after she insisted in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “the border is secure” — a claim the White House backed up hours after the migrants arrived at her front door.
“We’re sending migrants to her backyard to call on the Biden Administration to do its job & secure the border,” Abbott tweeted in announcing the transport.
President Biden tapped Harris in March 2021 to be his point person on stemming a mounting border crisis by focusing on the “root causes” of migration, but monthly apprehension rates have continued to surge.
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“This increase has been consequential, but the vice president has agreed — among the multiple other things that I have her leading, and I appreciate it — agreed to lead our diplomatic effort and work with those nations to accept returnees and enhance migration enforcement at their borders,” Biden said at the time.
Critics, including Republicans and Democratic Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, have blasted Harris’ performance and said she appeared uninterested in the assignment.
“I say this very respectfully to her: I moved on,” Cuellar told the New York Times in December 2021. “She was tasked with that job, it doesn’t look like she’s very interested in this, so we are going to move on to other folks that work on this issue.”
The number of migrants encountered at the border is expected to exceed 2 million in fiscal 2022, which ends Sept. 30, and already has surpassed last year’s 1.7 million — itself well above the fewer than 500,000 stops in fiscal 2020 and nearly 1 million in fiscal 2019.
As of last week, Texas said it had bused more than 7,900 migrants to Washington, DC, with more than 2,200 additional migrants going to New York City. The bus campaign to DC began in April, and New York was added as a destination in August. Some migrants also were sent to Chicago, where Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot allegedly put them back on buses — to a Republican-leaning suburb.
Critics blame the border crisis on Biden’s policies and his more welcoming rhetoric. The Biden administration has relaxed a Trump-era policy of turning away all illegal border-crossers under a CDC COVID-19 rule and also ended a policy of requiring migrants to remain in Mexico to await a court ruling on their asylum claims.
And while Democrats have blasted Republicans for transporting migrants, accusing them of not providing enough support when they reach their destinations, Republicans point out the Biden administration is also circulating migrants — including via middle-of-the-night flights to the New York City region.
Migrant crisis moves North: Here’s what’s happening around the country as border states bus migrants around the US
Abbott was joined this week in his migrant transport campaign by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who late Wednesday flew about 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, an elite vacation island where former President Barack Obama has a seven-bedroom mansion. Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday activated the National Guard and the migrants were moved to Cape Cod.
Biden on Thursday night slammed Abbott and DeSantis, telling a Hispanic Heritage Month gala in DC that his administration has “a process in place to manage migrants.”
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“Republicans are playing politics with human beings, using them as props. What they’re doing is simply wrong, it’s un-American, it’s reckless,” Biden said. “And we have a process in place to manage migrants at the border. We’re working to make sure it’s safe and orderly and humane.”
Biden added, “Republican officials should not interfere with that process by waging these political stunts. It’s long overdue for Senate Republicans to come to the table to provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, those on temporary status, farm workers, and essential workers. We need to modernize our laws so businesses get the workers they need and families don’t have to wait decades to be brought back together. It’s time to get it done. That’s why we have to win this off-year election.”