Mayorkas struggles to explain what VP Harris does in immigration role

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Mayorkas struggles to explain what VP Harris does in immigration role

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas admitted Tuesday that Vice President Kamala Harris has not been “directly” involved in his department’s key policy decisions during her nearly eight months tackling the “root causes” of illegal immigration for the Biden administration.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) recalled that President Biden had called Harris the “most qualified person” to stem the flow of migrants coming to the US-Mexico border from Central America and elsewhere when he tapped her for the role in March.

“Do you report to her?” Hawley asked Mayorkas.

“Senator, I report to the vice president and the president, and your question misstates the facts,” the DHS secretary responded. “The president did not appoint the vice president to be the border czar. He asked her to lead the effort in addressing the root causes of irregular migration. Those are two very different things.” 

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks with Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, before boarding Air Force Two at the El Paso International Airport in El Paso, Texas, U.S., on Friday, June 25, 2021.
Mayorkas said he’s met with Vice President Harris “a handful of times” to address the root causes of irregular migration.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

“Ah, I see,” Hawley answered. “So is she working closely with you on that important endeavor? How often do you meet with her?”

“I am certainly in close touch with the vice president,” Mayorkas said.

“How often do you meet on this subject?” Hawley pressed.

“I’ve met with the vice president more than a handful of times,” answered Mayorkas, who was confirmed as DHS secretary in February.

​”​More than a handful? Well,​ so what’s that, six or seven times​ in the​ last year?​” Hawley said.

“Well, no, first of all, I have not been in office for a year, senator,” said Mayorkas before repeating that he was in “close touch” with Harris.

When Hawley asked Mayorkas if the vice president had traveled to the border with him, the DHS chief recalled a late June visit by Harris to El Paso, Texas. The vice president received criticism for the trip from Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who pointed out at the time that Harris was going nowhere near the epicenter of the ongoing crisis.

“And has she been part of your policies, your decision to end the ‘Remain in Mexico‘ policy, to end the public charge rule, to change the ICE guidance, has she been part of those decisions?” asked Hawley.

“I have not consulted with the vice president directly about those policies,” Mayorkas admitted.

Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), left, and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris arrive at the El Paso International Airport in El Paso, Texas, U.S., on Friday, June 25, 2021.
Mayorkas admitted he did not consult with the vice president about ending the “Remain in Mexico” policy.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

“So what is she doing, exactly?” the Missourian asked. “Y​o​u said she’s not the borders ​czar. ​T​hat’s not ​her role. We’re wrong about that. She’s not doing anything like that. She’s doing something very different, is what your testimony is, but you’re not actually consulting with her ​on any policy. So what is it that she’s doing, exactly?​”​

“​Senator​,​ as I have repeatedly testified, she is focused on addressing the root causes of irregular migration ​i​n the context of the migration channels,” Mayorkas responded.

“How’s that been going?” snarked Hawley.

“That is a — We are advancing considerably, and in fact, I am contributing to that effort​,” said Mayorkas, who cited trips he had made to meet with with officials in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and other countries.

“And those efforts are working? That’s been successful?” Hawley asked. ​

“This is a process that takes time and delivers an enduring solution,” Mayorkas insisted. 

The pointed questions about Harris’ role come amid reports that the vice president is both increasingly sidelined by Biden during crucial meetings, and saddled with controversial issues that are eating away at her popularity.

CNN reported over the weekend that some Harris allies believe the White House is laying the way for Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to challenge Harris for the Democratic mantle in 2024 or 2028.

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