Joe Biden appoints Kamala Harris to tackle migrant border crisis - ‘Huge problem’

VP Harris put in charge of migrant influx as Biden faces down critics

Biden spoke of "serious spikes" in illegal immigration and attempted border crossings, and he said Harris was the most qualified person to take on the diplomatic assignment of speaking to leaders in Mexico and Central America to address the problem.

Biden's decision gives a high-profile assignment to his vice president, a former US senator from California, and gives her the same role he played as vice president for then-President Barack Obama.

"There is no question that this is a challenging situation", said Ms Harris.

Vice President Harris delivers brief remarks during a meeting Wednesday. It has still not allowed media to enter Border Patrol facilities where large numbers of children are detained or HHS sites that it rapidly opened under pressure. Lawmakers were told 1 in 10 children are testing positive for the virus, but none at the facility had been hospitalised, she said.

In a sign of shifting national focus, the San Diego center until recently had been repurposed for the Covid-19 pandemic as a homeless shelter that permits social distancing between beds.

"OK look, it's a huge problem", Harris replied.

"If you are not going to build the wall, you are going to build a lot of dormitories", he said.

"Should we be processing these cases faster?" she asked.

"We have to reconstruct it". And though Harris won't be directly in charge of what happens at the southern border, and aides say she will be exclusively responsible for leading efforts with Central American leaders, it seems likely she will shoulder the blame if further complications arise or if the surge of migrants worsens in the coming months.

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She added that the situation would not be "solved overnight".

The surge in migration has created a hard problem for Ms Harris and Mr Biden, who both campaigned on promises to reverse Trump-era policies of holding unaccompanied minors and adults in "inhumane" cages.

While increases in migration are common at this time of year, Republicans have called the influx a crisis and accused Biden of emboldening migrants by relaxing the harsher policies of his predecessor Donald Trump.

Top House Republican Kevin McCarthy has spoken of a "Biden border crisis" and former secretary of state Mike Pompeo tweeted that Biden "supports restrictions on pretty much everything except the border".

Biden has also faced concern from fellow Democrats who are alarmed at the conditions for children.

United States media reports say more than 15,000 children from Central America are being held at the border due to a shortage of shelter facilities.

While the Biden administration is still expelling adults who arrive without documentation, it has refused to send back into harm's way children who are unaccompanied by a guardian. It was a meeting with various immigration officials as well as Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandra Mayorkas.

Some critics accuse Biden of replacing Trump's unapologetically harsh measures with an approach of hiding the treatment of migrants by restricting media access.

It's been a mixed bag for vice presidents in recent history who have been made the point person on delicate matters, said Joel Goldstein, the author of "The White House Vice Presidency: The Path to Significance, Mondale to Biden".

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