Harris On Managing Border Crisis: Biden "Asked Me To Do It, As He Was Asked To" | Video | RealClearPolitics

Harris On Managing Border Crisis: Biden "Asked Me To Do It, As He Was Asked To" Do It

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Vice President Kamala Harris sits down for a wide-ranging interview with CNN's Dana Bash. Full transcript, via CNN:


BASH: Let me ask about immigration.

HARRIS: Of course.

BASH: President Biden tasked you with leading diplomatic efforts to work with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries...

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

BASH: ... to address the root causes of migration.

HARRIS: Mm-hmm.

BASH: How do you define success in this role?

HARRIS: Yes, it's a great question.

Well, let's first talk about what it is. You know, I come at this issue from the perspective that most people don't want to leave home. They don't want to leave their grandparents. They don't want to leave the place where they grew up, where the -- they speak the language, where they know the culture, the place where they're -- the place that is home.

Most people don't want to leave home. And when they do, it's usually for one of two reasons. They're fleeing some harm or they cannot stay and satisfy the basic necessities of life, such as feeding their children and having a roof over their head.

That's the -- that is part of -- a big part of what is going on. So, I look at the issue of what's going on in the Northern Triangle from that perspective.

And then my take on it is that we have got to -- understanding that, we have to give people some sense of hope that, if they stay, that help is on the way.

And that brings me to then my focus, which is, for example, I convened a group of members of our Cabinet, secretary of agriculture, secretary of commerce, the head of USAID, which is our aid organization. Tony Blinken, secretary of state, was a part of it. Jake Sullivan was a part of it.

And bringing together members of our Cabinet to do what, for example, is going to happen out of Commerce, which is, they're going to convene a trade mission, virtually now, and the hope is in person later, with Agriculture. Tom Vilsack is going to increase our focus and our resources around helping the farmers in that region who have been devastated by crisis in terms of climate and drought.

USAID, we're increasing our disaster response because, again, of the hurricanes. So, this is the kind of work that has to happen. The kind of work that has to happen is the diplomatic work that we have been engaged in, including my calls to the president of Mexico, the president of Guatemala.

And we have a plan to actually have another meeting coming up soon. And, in that regard, it is...

BASH: Are you going to go there?

HARRIS: Yes. We're working on the plan to get there. We have to deal with COVID issues, but I can't get there soon enough, in terms of personally getting there. And then, and then we have to also look at the piece about community-based organizations.

So, for example, this week, in addition -- or next week, in addition to meeting again with the president of Guatemala, I will be meeting the following day with the community-based organizations in Guatemala -- they call them, basically, civil society -- to figure out how we can better assist what they're doing on the ground in a way, again, that they can give the resources to people who naturally want to stay at home and give them some sense of hope that help is on the way.

This is the work that we're doing. But it's not going to be solved overnight. It's a complex issue. Listen, if this were easy, it would have been handled years ago.

BASH: Well, that's what I was going to ask you.

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

BASH: When President Biden said, would you like to do this -- or not would you like to -- you will do this, did you say, oh, gee, thanks, Mr. President?

HARRIS: No, he asked me to do it...

BASH: Yes.

HARRIS: ... just as he was asked to do it.

Joe Biden, as vice president, had -- was asked by President Obama to focus on the Northern Triangle. And he has asked me to do and to carry on the work that he did.

And you get back -- get back to the question that you have asked. We're making progress, but it's not going to evidence itself overnight. It will not. But it will be worth it. And I will tell you, part of my approach to this is, we have got to institutionalize the work and also internationalize it, which is why, for example, I'm working with Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield.

And we're going to be increasing the requests we're making of our allies in the United Nations, because, again, this is about the Western Hemisphere. We are a neighbor in the Western Hemisphere. And it is also about understanding that we have the capacity to actually get in there, if we are consistent.

Part of the problem is that, under the previous administration, they pulled out, essentially, a lot of what had been the continuum of work, and it essentially came to a standstill.

BASH: You're rebuilding it?

HARRIS: We have to rebuild it.

And I have made it very clear to our team that this has to be a function of a priority that is an American priority, and not just a function of whoever happens to be sitting in this chair, because, for example, looking at, again, the root causes, extreme weather conditions has had a huge impact on one of their biggest industries, which is agriculture, including drought, right?

And so a residual point, not only about the economic devastation and what we need to do to assist with economic development and relief, but it's also they have got extreme hunger there and food insecurity, and so what we need to do to address that...

BASH: Yes.

HARRIS: ... because, again, if parents and if children cannot literally eat, if they cannot have the basic, essential things that everyone needs to live, of course they're going to flee. And that's what we're seeing.

BASH: President Biden always said that he wants you to be the last person in the room...

HARRIS: Yes.

BASH: ... particularly for big decisions, just as he was for President Obama.

HARRIS: Yes.

BASH: He just made a really big decision, Afghanistan.

HARRIS: Yes.

BASH: Were you the last person in the room?

HARRIS: Yes.

BASH: And you feel comfortable?

HARRIS: I do.

And I'm going to add to that. This is a president who has an extraordinary amount of courage. He is someone who I have seen over and over again make decisions based on what he truly believes -- based on his years of doing this work and studying these issues, what he truly believes is the right thing to do.

And I'm going to tell you something about him. He is acutely aware that it may not be politically popular or advantageous for him personally. It's really something to see. And I wish that the American public could see sometimes what I see, because, ultimately -- and the decision always rests with him, but I have seen him over and over again make decisions based exactly on what he believes is right, regardless of what maybe the political people tell him is in his best selfish interest.

BASH: We're almost at 100 days.

Tell me something that has surprised you, that you never thought that you would see, hear or feel personally, as the vice president of the United States.

HARRIS: We are going to lift half of America's children out of poverty, Dana. How about that? How about that? Think about that.

I can't tell -- and maybe it's obvious -- how much that means, how much -- what that will mean. That's good stuff. That's really good stuff.

BASH: Thank you for your time. I appreciate it.

HARRIS: OK. Thank you. Thank you.
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