White House Defends Kamala Harris' Absence From Border, Says VP's Focused on Cause of Migrant Surge

The White House is hitting back at criticism from Republicans that Vice President Kamala Harris, tasked with addressing the growing border crisis, hasn't traveled there since taking office.

"Her focus is not on the border—it's on addressing the root causes in the Northern Triangle, and that's why the majority of her time has been spent on working on a diplomatic level," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday.

"If the president or vice president goes down and visits a facility like this, you have to potentially clear some parts out. There's a lot of security that comes," she said.

Images from processing centers have shown hundreds of migrant children in cramped areas. Many Republican members of Congress have toured the facilities and held news conferences to highlight the conditions.

"Our focus here is on solutions, on making progress, on moving these kids out of these facilities and getting them connected with sponsor homes with family members, if possible," Psaki said.

It's been more than a month since President Joe Biden named Harris as his point person on handling the surge of migrant children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. But Harris has instead made several trips to New Hampshire and other states to promote the administration's proposed jobs and infrastructure package and its coronavirus response.

Republicans have taken to hammering the Biden administration over Harris' absence from the border.

"Today would be a good day for Vice President Harris to visit the southern border," the House Judiciary Republicans tweeted from an official account Friday.

During an interview that aired Monday on Fox News, U.S. Representative Troy Nehls, a Texas Republican, accused the Biden administration of putting "Central America first."

"Look at [Harris]—she's been jet-setting around this country, going to all the different blue states, talking about this infrastructure plan and everything else," he said.

Harris last week defended her role, with its focus on diplomatic policies in the Northern Triangle region.

"We are making progress, but let's just be very clear that this is a complicated, complex issue that actually has been an issue for a long time, and the work that we are putting into it now is work that is going to require a long-standing commitment beyond administrations," she told reporters after an event last Monday.

Harris, who has scheduled virtual meetings with leaders in the region, is expected to travel to Mexico and Guatemala in the coming weeks—her first planned diplomatic trip as vice president.

Kamala Harris
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks after touring the IBEW Training Center in Concord, New Hampshire, on April 23 as she travels to the state to promote the Bien administration's economic plans. SAUL LOEB / AFP/Getty Images