In an interview that aired Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris sat down with NBC's Lester Holt to discuss her new role coordinating the White House's efforts to stem the influx of Central American immigrants to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Holt pressed Harris on why she hasn't yet journeyed to the border she's been tasked with addressing. "Why not visit the border?" he asked. "Well, we are going to the border," was Harris' brief response before pivoting to discuss her diplomatic efforts in Central America.
"Do you have any plans to visit the border?" Holt repeated later in the interview. "At some point," Harris replied. "We're going to the border. 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."
"You haven't been to the border," he responded.
"And I haven't been to Europe. I mean, I don't—I don't understand the point you're making," she said, laughing. "I'm not discounting the importance of the border."
It's a bizarre answer to a clear line of questioning from Holt: One would think that someone tasked with addressing migrant arrivals at the border would take the time to actually visit the border. That's bad enough on its own, but Harris' flippant response casts serious doubt on her commitment to her role.
Members of Congress have repeatedly implored her to visit the U.S.-Mexico border, to no avail. And beyond the physical border, she hasn't visited the immigration detention centers where thousands of children are kept waiting in squalid conditions, either—something she claimed back in March that she'd do. Harris tried to recover from Tuesday's interview by saying she would eventually make the journey to the border, but her avoidance after 140 days in office raises questions about how soon we could expect such a thing.
Harris has had no problem traveling to plenty of other places relevant to the Biden administration's agenda. She promoted the president's new infrastructure plan in North Carolina, Ohio, and New Hampshire in April. She even ran interference on her immigration plan in Guatemala and Mexico.
There's certainly a line between a good faith visit to the border and an opportunistic photo stunt (something politicians of both parties are guilty of). But for someone so adamant about addressing the sources of migration, Harris should be interested in gaining a full understanding of why people choose to come here. That could inform any immigration reforms the Biden administration may push in response to high numbers of arrivals.
Harris the presidential candidate got plenty of mileage out of criticizing former President Donald Trump's border policies, but her time with the Biden administration thus far has not matched her campaign tone. Her website called Trump's border strategy "disastrous and cruel," though she now wants to send border crossers back to Mexico just as Trump did. And, as Reason's Billy Binion writes, "for some hopeful immigrants, things have actually gotten worse" since the Trump era.
"You can't say you care about the border without caring about the root causes," Harris told reporters in Mexico City on Tuesday. Caring isn't the issue, though. Harris should see firsthand the people harmed by the Biden administration's policies.