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Harris says Congress needs to lead on immigration after Title 42 restrictions end

Vice President Harris told NPR in an interview Monday that the administration plans to add more resources to the southern border when Title 42 migration restrictions end.
Keren Carrión/NPR
Vice President Harris told NPR in an interview Monday that the administration plans to add more resources to the southern border when Title 42 migration restrictions end.

Vice President Harris says the Biden administration is prepared to do what it can to manage an expected surge of people trying to seek asylum at the southern U.S. border when pandemic border restrictions end, but said it's up to Congress to put in place broader reforms to deal with the issue.

Title 42, the Trump-era public health order that restricted migrants from crossing the southern border, had been set to expire on Wednesday, until the Supreme Court issued a temporary halt on the expiration late on Monday.

Republican attorneys general from 19 states have argued that lifting the restrictions would likely cause a surge of illegal immigration at the southern border. There has already been an increase of people attempting to migrate to the U.S. in recent weeks.

"I think that there is so much that needs to happen to address the issue," Harris said in an interview with NPR, hours before the Supreme Court issued its stay.

"And sadly, what we have seen in particular, I am sad to say, from Republicans in Congress is an unwillingness to engage in any meaningful reform that could actually fix a lot of what we are witnessing," Harris said.

Harris, who has the role of addressing the root causes of migration at the southern border, said the White House plans to boost technology to help process asylum cases more efficiently, and add more agents at the southern border. But she emphasized that Congress needs to lead on the larger issues.

"Reform of our immigration system can only happen through Congress in terms of the passage of an immigration bill that allows for a legal pathway to citizenship and a legal presence in the country," she said.

Harris also criticized some Republicans for using migrants to try to score political points. In recent months, Republican governors including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have bused thousands of migrants in their states to more liberal-leaning parts of the country, including Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, New York and to Washington, D.C., right outside the vice president's residence.

Harris also says Congress should act on protecting abortion rights

Democrats' success in the Georgia runoff election that took place earlier this month meant the party gained a bit of a cushion in passing their agenda through the Senate. That win also frees up Harris, who has served as a tie-breaking vote in the upper chamber 26 times since becoming vice president. She said she expects that means she will be able to travel more next year, now that she's not on call for Senate votes.

In 2022, she invested significant time meeting with advocates and state legislators from around the country to talk about the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v Wade. But on that issue, Democrats still don't have enough votes in the Senate to make good on President Biden's pledge to codify abortion rights.

Harris said she sees the issue as a "movement" where the focus has to be on supporting state and local leaders who are trying to protect reproductive rights — and on pushing Congress to act.

"The work cannot be anything other than a matter of urgency to protect and fight for these rights, for all people to put pressure on the United States Congress to do what is the right thing to do and put the protections of Roe v Wade into law to codify it," she said.

With social media companies like Twitter, Harris' chief concern is disinformation

Since Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has taken charge of Twitter, the website's rules and operations have been up-ended. Over the weekend, Musk suspended the accounts of several journalists who have reported about his ownership of the company. The accounts were mostly all reinstated after a few days.

Asked whether she saw a point where she would stop using the platform, Harris did not directly comment. But she said she is concerned about the rapid spread of disinformation on social media platforms, something she investigated when she was on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"I fully expect and would require that leaders in that sector cooperate and work with us who are concerned about national security and concerned about upholding and protecting our democracy to do everything in their power to ensure that there is not a manipulation that is allowed or overlooked," Harris said.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vice President Harris after speaking with NPR on Dec. 19 in Washington, D.C.
/ Keren Carrión/NPR
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Keren Carrión/NPR
Vice President Harris after speaking with NPR on Dec. 19 in Washington, D.C.

Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.
Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
Keren Carrión
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