US Vice President Kamala Harris has come under fire from Republican opponents of the Biden administration after laughing at a question regarding what some have termed a growing "crisis" at the Mexican border.
Speaking to reporters near Air Force One on Monday, Harris - the first African-American, South Asian and woman to hold the office of Vice President - was asked if she "plans to visit" the border, where officials are dealing with a surge in migrants, particularly unaccompanied minors.
Her response quickly elicited an angry response from Republican politicians.
"While VP Harris laughs off a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions, Republicans are focused on securing the border and responding to the needs of our Border Patrol agents on the front lines," Congressman Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California and House Minority Leader tweeted on Monday night.
Similarly, another Republican, Arizona congresswoman Debbie Lesko, expressed outrage at Harris' comments.
"First, the Biden Administration refused to admit the situation at the border is a crisis, NOW Kamala Harris thinks this is a laughing matter," she said. "It isn't a laughing matter for the border communities being deluged by illegal immigrants."
Another Arizonan Republican member of Congress, Andy Biggs, said that Harris' comments were "outrageous" and demonstrated "flippant disregard for American lives and livelihoods that are negatively impacted by the surge of illegal aliens at our border."
The Biden administration - including Harris - have faced harsh criticism in recent days regarding their handling of the influx of migrants at the Mexican border.
On Monday, Henry Cuellar - a Texas Democrat - released images showing an overcrowded facility in which migrants, including families with children, are being held in Donna, Texas.
Vice President Harris, for her part, said that the administration was "left with a very challenging situation" by the previous administration.
"We've got to treat this issue in a way that is reflective of our values as Americans and do it in a way that is fair and is humane," she said. "We have to meet the moment. There's a lot of work going into that, and we expect to have success, but it's going to take a lot of work."
Despite the challenges, senior administration officials have yet to refer to the situation as a "crisis".
"Children presenting at our border who are fleeing violence, who are fleeing prosecution, who are fleeing terrible situations, is not a crisis," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters. "We feel that it is our responsibility to humanely approach this circumstance and put into conditions that are safe."
Psaki added that the White House hopes to have an update "in the coming days" on when media outlets would be permitted to visit the facilities in which migrants are being housed.
"We are working to finalize details...we are working through and with the Department of Health and Human Services and also the Department of Homeland Security to ensure privacy and ensure we're following Covid protocols," she said. "We remain committed to transparency."
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