May 19, 2024

Full quotes below. Video also available on CSPAN: 


Biden and Harris were seated at a long table with DHS Secretary Mayorkas, HHS Secretary Becerra and a number of other officials.

Biden started out by recognizing Becerra, who was recently confirmed.

“We’ve got ourselves a secretary. Xavier, welcome. Thanks for being willing to do this. I really appreciate it,” Biden said.

“I said when we became a team and got elected that the vice president was going to be the last person in the room. She doesn’t realize that means she gets every assignment.”

He noted Harris’ work helping to pass the American Rescue Plan and since traveling around the country to talk about the ARP.

“I have asked her, the VP today, because she is the most qualified person to do it, to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle and the countries that are going to need help in stemming the movement of so many folks, stemming the migration to our southern border,” Biden said.

“Back when I was vice president, I got a similar assignment. One of the things we did was we made sure we got a bipartisan agreement with Democrats and Republicans to provide over $700 million to the countries in the Northern Triangle to determine the best way to keep people from coming is keep them from wanting to leave. The reason why so manty people were leaving we learned was not only gang violence and trafficking cartels but natural disasters, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes,” he said.

“If you deal with the problem in the country, it benefits everyone. It benefits us, it benefits the people, it grows the economies there. Unfortunately, the last administration eliminated that funding and did not engage in it, did not use it, even though there was over $700 million to help get this done. We are reinstituting that program. And there are as I said, there are many factors as to why people leave in the first place. This is the source of one of the reasons why we’ve had a such a, before we took office, in the midst of the last administration’s somewhat draconian policies of separating children at from their parents, etcetera, what happened was that we found that there were serious spike in the number of people heading to the southern border even in the midst of that,” Biden said.

“That was because there were serious natural disasters that occurred in those countries, they were coming north and we did nothing to do much about it,” he said.

“This new surge that we are seeing with now started with the last administration but it is our responsibility to deal with it humanely and to stop what is happening,” Biden said.

“This increase has been consequential, but the vice president has agreed, among the multiple other things I have had her leading and I appreciate it, agreed to lead our diplomatic effort and to work with those nations to accept the returnees and enhance migration enforcement at their borders,” Biden said.

“I can think of nobody who is better qualified to do this than a former — this is a woman who ran the second largest attorney general’s office in America after the United States attorney general in the state of California,” Biden said, noting Harris has done a “great deal” on human rights and fighting organized crime.

“It’s not her full responsibility job, but she is leading the effort because I think the best thing to do is to put someone who when he or she speaks, they don’t have to wonder about, is that where the president is. when she speaks, she speaks for me, doesn’t have to check with me, she knows what she’s doing, and I hope we can move this along,” he said.

“I gave you a tough job and you’re smiling,” Biden said as he turned to Harris, saying that there is “no one better” to take on this effort.

Harris then delivered brief remarks.

“Thank you Mr. President for having the confidence in me. There is no question that this is a challenging situation. As the president has said, there are many factors that lead [inaudible] to leave these countries. While we are clear that people should not come to the border now, we also understand that we will enforce the law and that we also –because we can chew gum and walk at the same time – must address the root causes that cause people to make the trek as the president has described to come here”

“I look forward to engaging in diplomacy with government, with private sector, with civil society and the leaders of each in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to strengthen democracy and the rule of law and ensure shared prosperity in the region,” Harris said.

“We will collaborate with Mexico and other countries in the western hemisphere,” she said.

“I also look forward to working with members of the Congress who I think share our perspective on the need to address root causes for the migration that we’ve been seeing. Needless to say, the work will not be easy but it is important work. It is work that we demand and the people of our countries I believe need to help stem the tide that we have seen,” Harris said. 

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