VP Kamala Harris in Mexico ( Photo by Carlos Fyfe)

At today’s Press Briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki talks about border visits, crime prevention, and voting rights efforts. Delaney Tarr reports on the key takeaways from the briefing. 

1. Harris to take the first border visit as VP

Vice President Kamala Harris is set for her first visit as Vice President to the US-Mexico border. The trip is part of her continued focus on migration. Harris will travel to El Paso, Texas later this week with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. 

The visit comes in the wake of criticism surrounding her previous dismissal of a border trip as the head of the Biden administration’s immigration efforts. Since becoming Vice President Harris hasn’t visited the border. 

Press Secretary Psaki said now was the “right time” for Harris to make the journey. The Vice President previously visited a number of Latin American countries to address the “root cause” of migration and told hopeful migrants not to come to the US.

Psaki also cited statistics on developments at border patrol facilities. She said in the past few months the number of children in the facility has dropped from 6k to less than 1,000.

The rate of migration is still high, though, with almost 900k interactions and encounters on the Southwest border so far this fiscal year, and about 170k interaction per month in the last three months.

“There has certainly been progress made in that regard but the work is ongoing,” said Psaki. She  then pointed to Harris’ coordinated efforts with countries in regions of heavy migration.

Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the US-Mexico border this Friday.

2. Biden crime plan spotlights gun violence

The White House plans to act with a “whole of government approach” to combat the rise in gun violence and violent crime in the country. The administration announced a strategy surrounding both gun legislation and community engagement.

The administration listed federal efforts including holding rogue firearm dealers accountable, but the brunt of the strategy centers around state and local government.

Psaki reiterated Biden’s support for local law enforcement and plans to invest in community violence interventions. Today, she also mentioned additional services and employment opportunities for teens and young adults. 

“He also wants to provide incentives and alternatives for young people and communities where that has shown to be an effective step,” said Psaki. She said the plan has multiple components, including both direct gun legislation and community support. 

As of right now, 15 jurisdictions will participate in the community violence intervention program. Funding for the program comes largely from state and local funding, as well as funds from the American Rescue Plan and public support. 

The question of a Gun Czar was floated, a distinct position pushed for by Gun Violence Prevention Advocates that would designate someone responsible for the issue. 

“The President is Responsible,” said Psaki.

Biden will deliver further announcements regarding his steps around gun violence and crime prevention this afternoon.
 

3. Harris makes new efforts after failure of Voting Rights Act

Vice President Harris held a listening session with civil rights and voting rights groups at 12:30 today, after the failing Senate vote on the For the People Act yesterday. The expected failure of the act has spurred continued efforts from the Biden administration on voter rights. 

Harris heads the administration’s voting rights effort, and is now working on what the administration calls a “national coalition on voting rights” to promote voter registration and engagement. 

Harris held her listening session virtually, with attendee’s screens broadcasted against a large backdrop next to her seat. Harris opened the event with a show of support for the activists. 

She said she believed the role the Biden administration can play is to “support all the work you’ve done historically, and recently around convening folks, lifting up the voice of the people.”

She asked the attendees to think about their collective goal, which she said is “to ensure that all people in our country have an unfettered access to the ballot box.” 

Harris said the show of unity among Senate Democrats at last night’s vote was a “feat” and should be considered an accomplishment. The remarks mirror Press Secretary Psaki’s previous statements that the vote was about showing Democratic unity even if it couldn’t pass.

Still, Harris stressed the urgency of the bill, citing 389 anti-voting bills in 48 states.

“The fact is our fight does not look very different than it did yesterday,” said Harris. The Vice President said they will continue to work toward passing federal legislation.

The administration also cited other avenues for protecting voting rights. Biden is set to speak on the issue next week, and Psaki said he will continue to use the “bully pulpit” to elevate the issue. 

She then reiterated that the administration will use “every lever at our disposal” to expand voter access.

Psaki did not comment on questions surrounding the existence of the filibuster. Psaki has previously said if the Senate vote failed it may “prompt a new conversation” within the Biden administration.