Kamala Harris snapped at a Univision reporter on Thursday for asking her when she will visit the U.S.-Mexico border – losing her composure once again when asked why as ‘border czar’ she hadn’t been to the site.
Harris spoke to Colombian journalist Ilia Calderon, an anchor with the Miami-based network, the day after her return from Mexico and Guatemala, where she spoke to presidents of both countries about ways to curtail soaring arrivals at the border.
Migrant numbers are on track this year to reach highs not seen since 2006.
‘I’ve said I’m going to the border,’ said Harris, visibly irritated.
‘And I – ‘
Calderon, speaking via video link, interrupted and asked: ‘When are you going?’
Harris continued saying: ‘The administration has asked…’
She paused, hearing Calderon’s question, and replied curtly: ‘I’ve not finished.
‘I’ve said I’m going to the border. And also, if we are going to deal with the problems at the border, we have to deal with the problems that cause people to go to the border – to flee to the border.
‘And that is the root causes.
‘So my first trip, as vice president of the United States, was to go – in terms of a foreign trip – to Guatemala.
‘To be on the ground there. To address, and to be informed of, the root causes – why are the people of Guatemala leaving.’
Harris on Thursday spoke to Univision reporter Ilia Calderon, who grilled her about when she would be visiting the U.S.-Mexico border to see the migrant situation with her own eyes. A visibly irritated Harris snapped at her for interrupting her, to press her on the question
Harris told Calderon that she had not finished speaking, accusing the reporter of interrupting her. She then explained that she had not yet visited because she wanted her first foreign trip – to Guatemala and Mexico – to be about addressing the root causes of migration
Harris wagged her finger at Calderon, telling her: ‘I’ve not finished’ – as the Spanish subtitles show. She laughed awkwardly as she reprimanded the reporter
Calderon asked: ‘Do you have a date for your trip to the border, to see the situation with your own eyes?’
Harris replied: ‘I will keep you posted.’
Her rebuke of Calderon, with a terse ‘I’ve not finished’, bore echoes of her dismissal of Mike Pence, when he attempted to interrupt her during their vice presidential debate last October.
‘I’m speaking,’ she reprimanded him, with a smile, before continuing her point.
The moment became a meme, and ‘I’m speaking’ was emblazed on t-shirts worn by Biden-Harris supporters.
This time round, the put down was less celebrated.
The vice president’s two-day trip was dogged by questions about when she would visit the border – to her evident annoyance.
Cruz Estuardo Tunpumay (L), a 32-year-old migrant from Guatemala, stands with other asylum seekers while waiting to enter a Mexican government facility in Tijuana. There, they will be examined before being taken to the border by UNHCR and Mexican authorities. The Biden-Harris administration has promised a more ‘humane’ approach to the border
Harris doubled-down that she will not be visiting the border during her trip – or any time soon. ‘I will continue to be focused on [addressing root causes of migration and corruption] as opposed to grand gestures’
She was exasperated by NBC anchor Lester Holt when he asked her about visiting the border.
‘At some point, you know, we are going to the border,’ she said.
‘We’ve been to the border. So this whole thing about the border. We’ve been to the border. We’ve been to the border.’
He replied: ‘You haven’t been to the border.’
‘And I haven’t been to Europe,’ Harris snapped, then quickly turned laughed.
‘And I mean, I don’t understand the point that you’re making. I’m not discounting the importance of the border.’
On March 24, President Joe Biden announced: ‘I’ve asked her, the VP, today — because she’s the most qualified person to do it — to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle and the countries that are going to need help in stemming the movement of so many folks, stemming the migration to our southern border.’
Harris has insisted since then – but especially this week – that her focus is on the root causes of migration, rather than dealing with the crisis at the border.
CNN reported that officials were concerned within the administration that whatever progress Harris had made on the leader-to-leader level might have been undermined by her conflicting answers and PR missteps.
‘It’s left some of the administration officials perplexed, and the vice president’s team frustrated,’ the network reported on Wednesday.
‘There was hope the trip would be a success, and in the end, they feel it may have been overshadowed by some of her answers to these questions.’
Border crossings have exploded 674 per cent in May 2021 compared to May 2020.
Authorities recorded 180,034 migrants crossing into the U.S. last month.
That represented a slight increase over the approximately 178,000 migrants encountered in April, and the 172,000 encountered in March.
In February, roughly 100,000 migrants illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into the United States.
This graph shows the number of migrants caught by the Office of Field Operation (OFO) and US Border Patrol agents in April and May
Central American migrants sit on the ground while waiting to be transported by U.S. Border Patrol agents after crossing the Rio Grande river into the United States
Chanel, 7, and her sister Adriana, 10, both unaccompanied minors traveling alone from Honduras, sits among other asylum-seeking children as they await to be transported to a U.S. border patrol processing facility
Single adults still represented the majority of border-crossers, data from the U.S. Border Patrol showed.
In May there was a decrease in the number of unaccompanied minors, from roughly 16,910 to 13,906, Border Patrol found.
CBP also said that a majority of those who crossed the border were already expelled due to Title 42, which allows the U.S. government to quickly remove people using the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of the 180,034 crossers, 112,302 had already been expelled.
CBP also pointed out, according to Fox News, that Title 42 is leading people to try to cross the border more than once, which could also factor into the high numbers.
Axios reported Tuesday that preliminary CBP data from the fiscal year 2021 showed that illegal crossings have been the most since 2006 – with four months still to go.
Additionally on Tuesday the Department of Health and Human Services reported that 16,200 children were still in custody, which is 50 per cent higher than the levels in March.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra appeared before the Ways and Means Committee to face questions on the border crisis.
Biden has promised to reunite families separated during the Trump administration and to expedite processing unaccompanied minors who arrived at the border in the last few months.
However, a new report from Biden’s task force on reuniting families indicates that 2,127 children have ‘not yet been reunified’ with their parents.
The poor showing in progress at the border comes on the heels of Harris’ trip to Guatemala and Mexico – where she faced backlash for laughing her way through serious topics and handing out cookies on the Air Force Two flight with her face-less likeness printed on them.
The task force progress report submitted to the president last week shows only seven children have successfully been reunited since Biden took office.
In a 22-page task force progress report, which was released Tuesday during Harris’ trip, was submitted to Biden last week and shows that 2,127 children are still awaiting their reunions.
It also states, however, that 29 more families ‘will be reunited in the coming weeks.’
The provision will allow the families to enter the U.S. under humanitarian parole, which lasts 36 months and can be renewed.
The dismal showings in reunification is being blamed on the Trump administration’s failure to keep accurate and organized data on families and children when they were separated at the border.