House Republican leaders on Wednesday accused Vice President Kamala Harris of being absent on immigration matters ― even showing up to a press conference with a milk carton with Harris’ face on it, declaring her “missing” at the border.
One problem: At the same time, Harris was holding a White House meeting on immigration and announcing her plans to visit Mexico and Guatemala.
With that milk carton in hand, House GOP Whip Steve Scalise (La.) demanded to know why Harris, who President Joe Biden recently tapped to examine the root causes of migration at the Mexican border, wasn’t personally visiting the region.
“She refuses to go down,” Scalise said. “But if she’s the vice president of the United States and the president put her in charge of this, Vice President Harris needs to go down to the border and see this for herself.”
“We think it’s important the press continues to ask the White House about the extent to which the president has said Vice President Harris is in charge at the border,” said House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (Wyo.). “Nobody seems to be in charge.”
Harris, meanwhile, was at the White House heading into a meeting with experts on what is driving a surge in migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, a region known as the Northern Triangle. She announced an upcoming trip to the area and clarified that her role in Biden’s immigration policies isn’t border-specific.
“The president has asked [Homeland Security] Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas to address what is going on at the border,” Harris said, per a White House pool report. “I have been asked to address the root causes, similar to what” Biden did as during his time as vice president to former President Barack Obama.
Still evidently unaware that Harris was discussing her travel plans, Scalise speculated she was avoiding the border because of the effects of some of Biden’s executive orders. The president created a task force to reunite families separated at the border by former President Donald Trump’s policies, and began a review of a Trump-era program that has forced tens of thousands of people to remain in Mexico while their asylum cases are processed.
Republicans have falsely claimed that Biden’s executive actions are responsible for the massive levels of unaccompanied children and teenagers coming across the border and filling up increasingly crowded shelters, rather than the years’ worth of broken U.S. immigration policies that Biden inherited three months ago.
“Maybe because she doesn’t want to be associated with this disgraceful policy,” Scalise said of Harris not going to the border.
“These open-border policies that were completely created by this president, Joe Biden, must be turned around,” said Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.). “This is a crisis that was created by President Joe Biden ... He broke this, and he needs to own it and he needs to fix it.”
In reality, the surge in migrant children at the border is not unique to the Biden administration. There were significant spikes under Trump in 2019, and under Obama in 2014. The difference from the Trump administration is that Biden refuses to summarily kick children out of the country, sending them back to potential danger in Mexico or the home countries they fled.
Instead, the Biden administration is reverting to the legal system of putting children through immigration proceedings to determine whether they can stay in the U.S. ― a system that takes more time, and means they need to stay with family or sponsors.
That’s not stopping Republican leaders from trying to find a way to ding Biden on immigration, though, or to spin Trump’s legacy. Even if it means being dishonest.
“You can go back to the Trump policies, ‘Remain in Mexico.’ Everybody will tell you that policy was working,” Scalise said. “The Border Patrol agents tell us.”
That policy did keep people out of the United States ― at the cost of violent, unspeakable suffering.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.