Vice President Kamala Harris announced Saturday that she will lead the National Space Council — even as she continues to face criticism for not visiting the southern border as part of her role in addressing the migrant crisis.
“As I’ve said before: In America, when we shoot for the moon, we plant our flag on it. I am honored to lead our National Space Council,” Harris tweeted.
The Space Council was kept by the Biden administration, after it was re-formed under Donald Trump. It had initially been created by the George H.W. Bush administration but was disbanded a few years later.
A senior administration official told reporters that Harris “intends to put her own personal stamp on the council,” according to Axios, with an emphasis on STEM, climate change and “sustainable development of commercial space activity.”
While it is not unusual for vice presidents to have multiple roles and commitments, the announcement comes at a time when Harris continues to take heat for not having visited the border.
President Biden appointed Harris in March to “lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle” — and she has emphasized that her focus is on diplomatic issues related to the region rather than the crisis on the border itself.
However, Republicans and former Trump officials have said that such a role is intertwined with the ongoing border crisis, and have questioned why she has not gone there.
“You can’t talk to Northern Triangle countries, or to Mexican officials, without understanding the pressures and the situation and atmosphere on the border,” former DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said recently. “The two are so linked, you can’t do one without the other.”
Last month, Republicans in the House had a mockup milk carton made with Harris’ face on it: ‘Missing at the border.’
Harris has so far met virtually with the leaders of Mexico and Guatemala, as well as community leaders, and is planning a trip to the region — but not until June.
Critics have blamed the Biden administration’s rollback of key Trump-era policies like border wall construction, asylum cooperative agreements with Northern Triangle countries, and the remain-in-Mexico policy for helping fuel the crisis.
Biden and Harris have blamed the Trump administration, while placing emphasis on “root causes” such as poverty and violence.
“And we are looking at, therefore, a number of issues that also relate to poverty, extreme poverty. And also there’s violence obviously coming out of those regions,” Harris said last month.