Harris is on a mission to repair Trump’s failed immigration policies

Vice President Harris meets with border patrol officials in El Paso, Texas
Getty Images

Women are used to cleaning up messes made by men. That’s the task Vice President Kamala Harris is now faced with regarding America’s broken immigration system: clean up the mess made by former President Donald Trump.

Trump, unable to leave the spotlight behind and ever-insistent that just about everything he did in office was perfect, is heading back to the southern border in Texas for a visit Wednesday with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. We can expect Trump to whine and complain about “illegal aliens” and to attack President Joe Biden and Vice President Harris’ five-month-old administration for its immigration and other policies with a series of false claims.

Trump has regularly denounced unauthorized immigrants since he announced he was running for president in 2015. In declaring his candidacy, he said: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems … They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” 

Trump promised dozens of times that he would use his brilliant deal-making skills to make Mexico pay for an impenetrable border wall — something that never happened. Instead, he wasted $15 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds on his wall. As The Texas Monthly reported in April, migrants are regularly using $5 ladders to scale the wall, which cost the U.S. $27 million per mile to build.

Biden wisely stopped construction on the wall. But Abbott, clearly wanting to please Trump, said he and leaders of the Texas legislature have agreed to spend $250 million in state funds to continue wall construction. He is soliciting donations from the public to build more and as of Friday, his office said $566,000 in donations have come in. 

Some critics of Biden have said he dumped the task of cleaning up Trump’s immigration mess on Harris because it’s an unsolvable problem and Biden wants her to take the blame for failing to solve it instead of taking the blame himself. I strongly disagree. 

I believe Biden assigned Harris the task of dealing with the root causes of unauthorized immigration from south of the border — and has given her other important assignments as well — because he has great confidence in her abilities to tackle the toughest challenges. 

Biden could have easily assigned his vice president tasks focusing solely on issues of particular concern to women and Black Americans, treating her as a token to emphasize her trailblazing role as the first woman, first Black person and first person of Asian descent to serve as vice president.

Instead, Biden is treating Harris as a full partner with the policy chops and skills to deal with a wide range of issues — just as President Barack Obama did with Biden when he was vice president.  

As a former U.S. senator and attorney general from California, Harris has been to the U.S.-Mexico border before and knows a great deal about the migration issue. She understands that individuals and families south of the border are making the long and dangerous trek north because they are fleeing poverty and violence in search of a better life. She knows that by helping our southern neighbors improve living conditions for their own citizens, the U.S. will reduce the flow of migrants entering our country and do what is morally right at the same time.  

It would be naïve to expect Harris or anyone else to quickly solve all the problems on the border and in the Northern Triangle countries (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador) that are the source of much unauthorized immigration. But her visit to the border at El Paso, Texas on Friday and her visit earlier this month to meet with the presidents of Mexico and Guatemala were important early steps.   

Harris has made a good start advancing policies that are designed to keep our borders safe and secure in a humane manner. To its credit, the Biden-Harris administration has improved upon cruel Trump administration policies of holding migrants in inhumane conditions, separating frightened children from their parents and treating southern neighbor nations like enemy invaders instead of allies. 

Republicans once worked with Democrats on immigration reform. President Ronald Reagan signed a major immigration reform bill into law in 1986 granting amnesty to nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants. More recently, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) joined in an unsuccessful bipartisan immigration reform effort in 2013.  

Unfortunately, instead of joining with the Biden-Harris administration and congressional Democrats to put together an effective and bipartisan immigration policy, many congressional Republicans are now politicizing the issue. They clearly fear doing anything that could be interpreted as a repudiation of failed Trump policies, lest the former president denounce them and campaign against them in primaries.   

Trump will no doubt please his base by once again demonizing immigrants on his border visit Wednesday. But Biden and Harris will not be deterred and will continue working constructively to effectively deal with the immigration issue. More Republicans should join them.

Donna Brazile (@DonnaBrazile) is a political strategist, a contributor to ABC News and former chair of the Democratic National Committee. She is the author of “Hacks: Inside the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.”

Tags Barack Obama Central American migrants Donald Trump Donald Trump Donna Brazile Illegal immigration to the United States Joe Biden Joe Biden Kamala Harris Marco Rubio Marco Rubio Northern Triangle

More White House News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video