Vice President Kamala Harris‘ glory of being the highest-ranking Black woman to make a foreign trip on behalf of the U.S. government was short-lived after a series of comments she made about the immigration crisis at the border.
The latest scrutiny of Harris’ approach to what President Joe Biden called “stemming the migration to our southern border” came Tuesday morning in the form of a snippet of an interview the vice president conducted with NBC’s Lester Holt in Guatemala. The brief clip was making the rounds on social media and showed a terse exchange between Harris and Holt.
Perhaps more importantly, the contents of the excerpt were very telling, depending on who you ask.
The clip was centered on the topic of Harris herself having ever physically been to the U.S. southern border. Spoiler alert: She has not. But, she said, that is beside the point of her visiting Guatemala, where on Monday she engaged in bilateral talks in an effort to address the “root causes” of the migrant crisis to help inform her immigration strategy. She said the root causes are her “highest priority” and quipped through smiling teeth that she hasn’t “been to Europe” either, an attempt to underscore how ludicrous she apparently found Holt’s line of questioning.
“I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make,” Harris told Holt in between laughs.
Holt countered with Republicans’ argument but also cited one Democratic Congressman who is also critical of Harris’ approach to the border.
The exchange prompted Republicans to claim disingenuously that Harris thought the immigration crisis at the border was something to laugh about. But it also prompted liberal-leaning voices to claim that Holt was advancing a Republican agenda when he should have remained neutral.
Watch the clip below.
NBC News publicized that interview — scheduled to air in full 6:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. CT Tuesday on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt — following controversy over other related comments she gave during an address following her meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei.
“I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come. Do not come,” Harris said in an effort to deter potential migrants from traveling north. “The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border. There are legal methods by which migration can and should occur. But we as one of our priorities will discourage illegal migration.”
Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that she was “disappointed” Harris would issue such a warning to people “seeking asylum at any US border,” calling it “a 100% legal method of arrival.”
Then AOC had a mic drop: “Second, the US spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America. We can’t help set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for fleeing.”
To be sure, the outrage seems to be contrived and politically motivated to make a mountain out of a molehill. Harris appears to be doing her due diligence with an issue that has fallen by the wayside for decades and hasn’t ever been effectively addressed by the U.S. government, including the previous administration that employed inhumane tactics at the border. By examining the “root causes” of the migrant crisis, Harris said, she can approach the solution from a much broader perspective.
Conventional wisdom might suggest that Harris — following recent attacks by Republicans to use her own words against her — would be a bit more discerning with her remarks.
After all, it wasn’t even two weeks ago when conservatives tried to portray Harris as unpatriotic for tweeting that Americans should “enjoy the long weekend” heading into the Memorial Day holiday. Conservatives promptly pounced and said Harris’ tweet was all but tantamount to treason.
Minority Leader of the House Kevin McCarthy was among them, tweeting that Memorial Day is “NOT just a long weekend.”
That came about a month after Harris was the subject of false media reports centered on her new immigration role. A reporter with the conservative tabloid New York Post was forced to quit in April after writing without offering any proof that undocumented migrant minors arriving at the border were being greeted by American officials with copies of a children’s book written by the vice president.
Addressing the immigration crisis is just one of the growing list of issues Harris has been charged by Biden to handle for his administration. Others include the COVID-19 pandemic and voting rights, underscoring the trust he’s placed in Harris to handle three of the most urgent issues facing the United States.