Kamala Harris convened philanthropists Thursday in D.C. to learn more about problems facing Northern Triangle countries as she holds her second meeting related to the migration crisis without visiting the border.
She insisted that Central American migrants don’t actually want to leave their home countries and flee to the U.S.
‘The way I look at it, people don’t want to leave home,’ Harris told press ahead of her meeting with the leaders of major philanthropist organizations. ‘They don’t want to leave their grandparents, they don’t want to leave the culture.’
Harris did not take any questions from the press as she was surrounded by her guests in the Ceremonial Office of the Vice President at Eisenhower Executive Office Building – only one participant joined virtually.
Last month, the White House announced Harris as its border ‘czar’, claiming she would lead the administration’s response to the crisis. In her 29 days as point person, Harris has not visited the border nor held any significant press conferences on the issue.
Vice President Kamala Harris said Thursday that migrants from Central American don’t want to leave their home countries. ‘The way I look at it, people don’t want to leave home,’ Harris said
Harris was holding a meeting Thursday with leaders of philanthropic organizations to talk about ‘root causes’ of the southern border mass migration crisis
The meeting was held in D.C., nearly 1,800 miles from the Rio Grande River, where migrants are crossing every day and night into the Texas from Mexico
Harris has faced a slew of backlash for not visiting the border despite being named border ‘czar’ in charge of addressing the immigration crisis. She has taken several other trips, however, since being put in that post last month
Asylum-seeking migrant families disembark an inflatable raft after crossing the Rio Grande River into Roma, Texas on April 22, 2021
Migrants help each other walk to turn themselves into Border Patrol agents after crossing into the U.S. illegally
She announced last week she would be visiting Guatemala and Mexico ‘soon,’ and a White House official said Wednesday, according to Reuters, the trip would come in June.
Harris will also hold a virtual meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday, the official said, to discuss solutions.
‘We have to give people a sense of hope, a sense of hope that help is on the way, a sense of hope that if they stay, things will get better,’ the vice president continued in short remarks before her Thursday meeting.
‘This is an issue that has been a long standing issue. It is complex. If it was easy, it would have been solved a long time ago.’
Border state Senators John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, and Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, are proposing a piece of bipartisan legislation aimed at addressing the border crisis.
Harris mentioned several reasons Thursday as to why there is a mass migration from Northern Triangle countries to the U.S. by way of Mexico, which is creating a growing border crisis and overwhelmed immigration system. She cited hurricane damage, food insecurity, violence and poverty as issues she is looking to address in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
‘The bottom line is that this initiative, from my perspective, must be effective and relevant to the underlying issue, which is addressing the acute and the root causes of migration away from that region,’ Harris said.
‘I’ve asked the leaders of major philanthropic organizations — not only nationally but globally — I’ve asked you to come together so I can learn from you, so I can hear from you,’ she added. ‘Many of you have been investing for years, like I said, in the region. I want to hear from you to know what works, what has worked, what has not worked. So that will help inform our strategy going forward.’
Asylum-seeking migrants wait to be transported by CBP to a processing facility on April 22
Migrant parents hold their children as they wait in line to be bused to one of the overflowing border facilities
Asylum seekers take the trek to from the border to surrender to CBP agents in Roma, Texas
Meeting participants on Thursday include Rockefeller Brothers Fund director Arturo Aguilar and President and CEO Stephen Heinz. Also there in-person are Foundation for a Just Society CEO Nicky McIntyre, Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives, Seattle International Foundation Eric Olson and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker.
Open Societies Foundation President Mark Malloch Brown attended virtually.
‘So the question has to be ‘Why do people leave home?’ And often it is the case that people leave home when they don’t want to either because they are fleeing sometimes, or because they are unable to satisfy their basic needs and the needs of taking care of their family,’ Harris told press in front of meeting participants. ‘Because the resources and opportunities are not there. And so they have to go elsewhere.’
‘I don’t need to tell this group of experts that this is an issue that has been a long standing issue, it is complex,’ she continued. ‘If it were easy, it would have been solved a long time ago.’
‘We also know that the work that we can do there together, and the potential for the work that we can do together, will not be accomplished overnight.’
Thousands of migrants continued to cross into the U.S., with pictures emerging nearly every night of illegal crossers being taken into custody in Texas after crossing the Rio Grande River.
Senators Cornyn and Sinema sent a letter to President Joe Biden last month urging hum to use his ‘full authorities’ to respond to the migrant surge. They demand this include ‘immediate action’ in making sure there are enough ‘resources and facilities’ along the border and improving the asylum process.
Biden promised last week to increase the cap on asylum seekers.
Border state Senators John Cornyn a Republican from Texas and Kyrsten Sinema a Democrat from Arizona are introducing legislation to address the immigration crisis, including looking at protecting unaccompanied migrant kids
After no solutions were achieved in a ‘timely manner’, Cornyn, Sinema along with a group of bipartisan lawmakers are going forward with introducing legislation to tackle the issue.
Cornyn’s office said the bill would seek to deter those unlikely to be approved for asylum from traveling to the U.S. in the first place. It also aims to ‘protect unaccompanied migrant children.’
The bipartisan group met Wednesday to discuss immigration reform as Congress has failed for years to reach a deal on immigration reform as it becomes an increasingly partisan issue.
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin is leading the effort and said the group is looking at border security as well as addressing what to do about so-called ‘Dreamers’ and immigrant agricultural workers.
‘Most of these we’ve been through before. We got to sit down. We agree – I think we agree – on a bipartisan basis that we got to reform the system, as far as we can take it,’ Durbin said.