Speaking at a White House press briefing on Wednesday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki initially dismissively answered a question from a reporter about Vice-President Kamala Harris taking time to visit a bakery in Chicago while avoiding taking a trip to visit the southern border. “Like many Americans, she got a snack,” said Psaki. “I think she’s allowed to do that.”
New York Post reporter Steven Nelson pointed out that Harris had been named to lead the effort to address the crisis at the border but had not visited it, saying to Psaki, “So on immigration and the border, as we discussed here today, Vice President Harris has been put in charge of addressing the root causes of the border crisis. Last Tuesday, she spoke with Guatemala’s president, but she hasn’t visited the border or Central America or spoken to the leaders of El Salvador or Honduras.”
Nelson then asked, “She was traveling this week. Took time to visit a bakery in Chicago. I’m wondering, is she still working on this? And can you address the perception that she’s, kind of, quietly backing off while Secretary Mayorkas is pursuing some Trump-era policies, such as potentially building new border barriers and potentially prosecuting people who illegally cross multiple times?”
“First, I would say the Vice President was visiting Chicago actually to talk about COVID and the importance of communities getting the vaccine when it’s available and accessible to them. And so, while she was there, like many Americans, she got a snack. I think she’s allowed to do that,” Psaki replied.
“But she was there to talk about COVID and play a role — as she’s playing a significant role on our efforts to address vaccine hesitancy, communicate with the public about how we can do this, and it’s — it’s imperative to get the vaccine once available,” Psaki added.
Psaki then deflected by saying that Harris’ “team” had announced the formation of a team to address the situation:
Second, I would say that yesterday — and this was actually a statement put out by her team — USAID announced the deployment of a DART team — we only have these in a couple of places in the world, so this is fairly significant — to respond to urgent humanitarian needs in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. This is meant to help address the immediate humanitarian needs, whether it’s drought, food insecurity, ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. And this is in communities that are still recovering. So that is actually an announcement made by the Vice President’s team earlier today.
Psaki insisted that Harris was “committed” to the problem, arguing, “This is absolutely an issue that she is — remains committed to, is in the lead on. The Northern Triangle, which I’m sure you’re aware of, but is not the same as the border. They’re all related to each other, but addressing the North — being responsible in the lead on the Northern Triangle is working with these countries in the region, addressing the root causes, working with them on how we can address issues like long-term food insecurity, drought, the COVID-19 pandemic, hurricanes, et cetera. That’s what she’s focused on.”
Then she stated, “I don’t have an update on when she’ll travel. I’m sure it will be soon.”