'Border czar' Harris downplays migrant crisis during Georgia fundraising trip: 'Going rather smoothly'
Vice President Kamala Harris, who was tasked by the White House to address the "root cause" of mass migration, attended a fundraiser Friday in a wealthy Atlanta suburb, less than 24 hours after Title 42 expired.
Harris gave remarks at the Democratic Party of Georgia's spring soirée in Buckhead, but did not mention immigration during her speech that appeared to last about 20 minutes. The event came as thousands of migrants flooded the border after the expiration of Title 42 – a COVID-19 emergency policy that allowed border agents to turn away migrants.
The vice president focused her speech on abortion, infrastructure and protecting democracy.
JUDGE BLOCKS BIDEN ADMIN REQUEST TO STAY ORDER BLOCKING RELEASE OF MIGRANTS INTO US WITHOUT COURT DATE
"We will fight for our democracy, for our founding principles as a nation based on our love of country, and Georgia, when we fight, we win," Harris said.
Harris was asked by a local Atlanta news outlet to respond to the Republican Party of Georgia's statement on Harris' visit for the fundraiser, which said it was "deplorable that the Vice President is coming to Atlanta for a fundraiser campaigning while the border crisis is overflowing and we have out-of-control inflation."
"You know, I hear that everything in the last couple days is going rather smoothly, given what the concerns were," Harris said. "The bottom line, however, is that this issue of immigration falls squarely within the responsibility of the United States Congress."
Harris' quick pivot to blaming Congress for the border crisis echoes Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who pushed the same talking point last week.
"There’s a very important message, not to communicate only to Sen. Sinema but to all senators and all members of the House of Representatives: We need immigration reform," he said. "Everything that the Department of Homeland Security is doing, everything that our partners across the federal government are doing is within a broken immigration system. The president passed to Congress a proposal to fix our broken immigration system on the first day in office."
"Margaret, we have been pushing for immigration legislation since day one," Mayorkas told Margaret Brennan, host of CBS News' "Face the Nation." "And by the way, it didn't start on day one – this is a decades-long problem. The immigration system hasn't been fixed since the '90s."
WHAT IS TITLE 42? WHAT THE END OF THE BORDER POLICY MEANS FOR THE US
Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., slammed Harris' visit to her state, saying, "Collecting checks and congrats from liberal elites while border communities descend into chaos is not leadership."
Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and other GOP operatives were also critical of Harris' visit to Georgia following expiration of Title 42.
The vice president, who Republicans have dubbed Biden's "border czar," was assigned her role to address mass migration in March 2021 by the president. Border encounters since her assignment hit all-time highs, with as many as 250,000 in December 2022, according to Customs and Border Protection.
The Biden administration planned to release migrants once detention centers hit capacity, but a federal judge in Florida blocked the administration from implementing a policy that allows for the release of migrants without court dates.
Judge T. Kent Wetherell II imposed a two-week restraining order on the Biden administration policy, which would see migrants released on "parole with conditions."
The policy was outlined in a Border Patrol memo this week, which says that migrants can be allowed into the country on parole – a process typically reserved for "urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit" – if Customs and Border Protection (CBP) faces overcrowding. The memo calls the practice "parole with conditions" as migrants are required to make an appointment with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or request a Notice to Appear by mail.
U.S. LAWMAKERS WEIGH IN ON END OF TITLE 42, BIDEN’S BORDER CRISIS: ‘WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING’
White House plans to address mass migration focus on investments in Central America to encourage residents to stay in their home country.
Harris visited the border once as vice president in June 2021, which was widely panned after her visit didn't occur until three months after Biden gave her the role. Reports from earlier this year have revealed friction between Biden and Harris.
"I don't think that the president sees her as somebody who takes anything off of his plate," a former White House official said, adding a "fear of messing up" had caused Harris to be late in joining important political fights, like the ongoing border crisis.
Fox News' Adam Shaw and Jeffrey Clark contributed reporting.