(Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Wednesday named Vice President Kamala Harris to lead U.S. efforts with Mexico and Central America’s Northern Triangle countries to try to stem the flow of immigration to the United States.
Biden announced the high-profile move at a White House meeting of his immigration team, assigning Harris the same role he played as vice president for then-President Barack Obama.
The decision comes as Biden struggles to get a handle on a burgeoning migration challenge along the U.S. border with Mexico, a problem the Democrat blamed on “the somewhat draconian” policies of his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.
Biden said the United States is going to need help from Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and that Harris “agreed to lead our diplomatic efforts and work with those countries.”
U.S. officials are battling to house and process an increasing number of unaccompanied children, many of whom have been stuck in jail-like border stations for days while they await placement in overwhelmed government-run shelters.
Since taking office in January, Harris has been carving out a role for herself as a key promoter of Biden’s U.S. coronavirus relief bill, the first major legislation the president signed into law.
Within that area, much of Harris’s focus has been on how the stimulus bill can help women and small businesses. She has also taken an active role in encouraging Americans to get vaccinated.
While she has not had a specific policy portfolio until now, she has had calls with foreign leaders, including key allies such as France and Israel.
Republicans have started criticizing Biden for the situation at the border and are preparing a slate of bills to curb the flow of immigrants to the border and ointo the country.
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Andrea Shalal and Nandita Bose; Writing by Mohammad Zargham and Steve Holland; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Jonathan Oatis)