On Thursday, The New York Times published a report claiming that Vice President Kamala Harris ignored Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar’s (TX) phone calls to her office about the ongoing border crisis.
The Times’ report, “Heir Apparent or Afterthought? The Frustrations of Kamala Harris,” detailed Harris’ role in the Biden administration since assuming office in January. One of Harris’ top priorities, the ongoing immigration crisis, was a major concern for many Republican and Democratic lawmakers. But, the Times’ notes that some Democrats say their “frustrations run deeper” with Harris over the issue, including Cuellar.
Cuellar, who has represented Texas’ 28th congressional district since 2005, has repeatedly raised concerns about the unprecedented number of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. His district covers a portion of the southern region of the state, including miles of international border.
In the Times’ report, Cuellar said that ahead of Harris’ trip to the border this past June, his staff phoned her office to offer guidance ahead of her visit. However, his office did not receive a response. Cuellar told the Times that “she [Harris] doesn’t look like she’s very interested” in securing the border, and that he now goes to the West Wing with concerns on the issue.
“Representative Henry Cuellar, a moderate from Texas and one of the more prominent voices on border issues in the Democratic Party, said his experiences with Ms. Harris’s team had been disappointing. When Mr. Cuellar heard Ms. Harris was traveling to the border in June, he had his staff call her office to offer help and advice for her visit. He never received a call back.
‘I say this very respectfully to her: I moved on,’ Mr. Cuellar said. ‘She was tasked with that job, it doesn’t look like she’s very interested in this, so we are going to move on to other folks that work on this issue.’
In the future, Mr. Cuellar said he would go straight to the West Wing with his concerns on migration rather than the vice president’s office.
Of the White House, Mr. Cuellar said, ‘at least they talk to you.’”
Cuellar, along with Sen. Lindsay Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, penned a letter to President Biden and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in July to raise concerns about the border crisis. In the joint letter, the lawmakers called on Biden and Mayorkas to make a “special executive appointment for border issues.”
“We request that you immediately create a special executive position vested with the authority to implement federal policies which prioritize the health and safety of U.S. communities at the southern border,” the letter stated.
“As the U.S. endeavors to fully suppress the COVID-19 pandemic and navigate the challenges associated with the spread of the Delta variant, Americans living near the southern border are not vulnerable to additional public health risks,” the letter adds, outline several statistics on the rise of COVID-19 near the border. “The situation on the border will worsen unless we enact policies that will end the surge and fix our broken immigration system.”
When it comes to the criticism Harris has received, California Rep. Karen Bass, a Democrat, told the Times that “the complexity of the issues she [Harris] has been assigned, and the long-term solutions they require, should have prompted the West Wing to defend Ms. Harris more aggressively to the public.”
“What the White House could’ve done is been clearer with the expectations of what was supposed to happen under her watch,” Bass told the Times. But as for Harris’ future presidential ambitions, she thinks Harris will be “the front-runner.”