Biden handed Harris a political grenade. Can she defuse it?

“The problem cannot be solved by one person or in four or eight years, as the litany of past failures of people of goodwill and talent has shown,” said one person close to the Vice President who has no authority to speak to the press speak said. “But that’s not necessarily bad for them because any improvement on the status quo should be a win.”

The exact role of Harris has not been fully disclosed publicly. Although senior administrators keep hammering home that Harris is not responsible for all of the government’s immigration agenda or activity at the border, Symone Sanders, Harris’ senior adviser and keynote speaker, told reporters Friday that the vice president had a “comprehensive briefing about “Got the Northern Triangle and Latin America” ​​and would “speak to executives from the region in the near future”.

Sergio Gonzales, a former senior Harris policy advisor on immigration and homeland security, points out how Harris maneuvered in 2017, just weeks after President Donald Trump used DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) policies as an example of this type of Had maneuvers lifted tact will bring them to the subject. Between intense policy-oriented meetings with staff and immigration officials, then-Senator Harris gave her staff the mandate to set up drinks and snacks for the DREAMERs in her Hart Senate office building, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children under DACA protection. that had come to Capitol Hill.

In part, it was an effort to show their support for the young people at the center of the political tug-of-war.

“She will be very involved and take care of the details. And she will think about it from a human-centered perspective, ”said Gonzales.

The DREAM Act, of which Harris was one of ten co-sponsors in 2017, was never passed by the Senate. Former helpers said that the topic was still their top priority. Critics say there were times in the past when she was too harsh on immigrant communities while holding office in California – the state with the largest immigrant population in the country. However, former aides say her state records show she has strong skills to help solve the problem now.

As attorney general, Harris helped coordinate immigration lawyers for families in need, especially children who have traveled to the border multiple times Meet with local officials and created a task force for transnational gangs. At the time, said Harris: “Violent gangs no longer respect borders than the law. My office strives to do everything possible to protect the citizens of California from gang violence and drug use.”

She has also suffered a blow from her time as the San Francisco District Attorney for supporting policies to hand over undocumented underage immigrants to the authorities if they were charged with committing a crime. you Presidential campaign said CNN that this “policy should protect the sanctuary status of San Francisco”. But they also admitted that the “policy could have been applied more fairly”.

In her 2016 Senate race against Loretta Sanchez, a Latina congresswoman, Harris gave an instruction to her staff: Make sure I win with Latino voters. And in most parts of the state, she did. After her victory, Harris appeared for the first time in front of the press with a large number of immigration activists calling for reform.

When she began setting up her Senate office, the first committee she joined was the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, one of several that oversaw immigration policy. As a newly elected senator in the minority party with no longstanding Hill ties, however, she had few levers to pull. As in the immigration policy of the last few decades, there were never any reforms that she discussed with activists at her side on election night.

“If you’re the youngest person on the committee, the questions you ask must be the ones no one else is asking [asked] before you. So she put a lot of work into preparing for this oversight and confirmation hearings, ”a former senior Senate adviser told POLITICO.

Harris’ contributions to the immigration front were political rather than legislative. She went viral for questioning Trump’s appointment as the prosecutor’s appointment: General John Kelly and Kirstjen Nielsen retired. She also called for Nielsen to resign over the government’s family segregation policy.

She positioned herself as the voice for lawyers during her brief tenure – her first Senate speech was beating Trump over immigration. Harris went home with huge folders of statistics and data on the immigration system, scribbling notes in the margins, and asking for more information. Then he returned to the helpers, referred to as intensive preparatory sessions, which the staff referred to as the “hot bank”.

“You knew it was best to be fully prepared if you wanted to do a briefing. That meant getting all the facts straight and thinking through different lines of a question, ”said Gonzales. “To know that she really wants to dig deeper” and to expect that it could happen for any type of investigation.

Harris also quickly put in place laws to give detained migrants access to lawyers, and – especially given the current climate – introduced legislation stop building prisons.

After that initial spate of activity, she worked on other immigration-related bills and later took the heat off some members of her own party for refusing to support a deal – backed by her own party leadership – that was $ 25 billion In terms of spending on Trump, Grenzmauer would have exchanged for something she really wanted: a path to citizenship for DREAMERS. Explaining the move, she said that while she supported “border security” she would “under no circumstances vote for a wall”.

The deal died before it could be introducedwith each camp blaming the other.

The next iteration of Harris’ immigration portfolio is the same role her boss played towards the end of the Obama presidency. As Vice President in 2015, Biden was put in charge of a program that raised $ 1 billion to Central America in hopes of reducing the flow of migrants through Mexico to the US southern border. There were few conditions attached to the money and the corruption in the region has only made the situation worse. Six years later, this experience is in the minds of the Biden administration, which is trying again to resolve the root causes of the problem.

“Both the president and all of us who worked with him – for him – learned a lot,” Roberta Jacobson, special assistant to the president and coordinator for the southern border, told reporters on March 10. economic opportunities and security issues, or lack of violence, some of them require government commitments to anti-corruption and transparency. “

Jacobson added that the government will be pushing for more leadership pledges and will work to “get the funds to the communities that are really in need.”

Harris’ allies say these lessons will be key to their success. They argue that the unsolvability of this issue actually intuitively creates a space where any move in the right direction can be sold as a win for Harris and the administration. Jess Morales Rocketto, the executive director of Care in Action, worked with Harris on the drafting of the Bill of Rights for Domestic Workers Legislature says it has no doubt that Harris’ role will be difficult in the Northern Triangle countries, but believes something can be done because it is a subject of interest to Harris.

“I would say she was one of our earliest and greatest champions in the field using our news,” said Rocketto. “A lot of people are afraid of immigration and they just embraced it so much. And over time, when everyone found out that it was the vice president election, that was amazing and also how “s” – we’re going to lose our immigration champion in Congress. “

While Harris may have support from the advocacy community, Republicans have already started attacking them over issues at the border, including the children being held in adult facilities.

In a press conference after 18 GOP Senators went to the limit last week, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) Linked all topics to Harris, including those outside her portfolio. “This is your remedy,” he said. “I promise I’ll work with you, but you can’t possibly understand your job if you don’t come here.”

For Harris, who is expected to run for president again in the future, the risk of being blamed for years of immigration bog is very real. However, allies who have spoken to POLITICO say the underestimation has always been a big contributor to Harris’ success.

“I’m sure in some ways she loves the fact that people say this is a tough dive,” said a former Senate adviser.

Christopher Cadelago contributed to this report.

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