Vice President Kamala Harris has expanded her team with new senior advisors, including the brother-in-law of White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, as she faces public relations challenges over the border crisis.
Harris in recent months hired Lorraine Voles and Adam Frankel, both of whom worked with her transition team, to assist with ‘organizational development, strategic communications and long-term planning,’ a White House official told the Washington Post.
Frankel, who worked as a speechwriter for former President Barack Obama, is married to Psaki’s sister Stephanie Psaki, a senior adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services.
The new public relations hires come as Harris, who is viewed as likely to seek the Democratic presidential nomination, faces falling approval ratings and criticism over her handling of the border.
Vice President Kamala Harris has expanded her team with new senior advisors, including the brother-in-law of White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki
Harris in recent months hired Lorraine Voles (left) and Adam Frankel (right) to assist with ‘organizational development, strategic communications and long-term planning,’
President Joe Biden has handed Harris a number of complex and politically charged projects, including addressing the root causes of a surge in illegal border crossings, and spearheading a fight over US election laws.
These assignments have reportedly frustrated members of Harris’ inner circle, who see them as political hot-potatoes with no easy wins, potentially damaging the vice president’s further political ambitions.
Many Democrats view Harris as the leading contender for the party’s presidential nomination either in 2024, if 78-year-old Biden does not seek a second term, or in 2028, if he chooses to run again.
Harris’ approval ratings turned negative soon after her controversial trip to Mexico and Guatemala on June 8, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of polling data.
The trip to address the so-called ‘root causes’ of migration came as illegal crossings at the southern US border approached a 20-year high, and Harris bristled at the time when questioned on why she had not yet visited the border itself.
Biden’s approval ratings also began to sink around the same time, and have slipped further since, so it’s unclear whether Harris suffered from a general decline in satisfaction with the administration.
A Haitian girl stands at a migrant camp at the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday in Del Rio, Texas. The large camp thrust border issues back into the spotlight this week
Meanwhile 19,000 mostly Haitian migrants are currently camped out in northern Colombia waiting for a boat to take to Acandi in hopes of crossing through the Darien jungle on the way to the US, despite 41 people dying in the jungle this year
Migrants boarding a boat to Acandi in hopes of getting to the Panama border on Thursday. Only 11,500 migrants were able to obtain boat tickets and some have been stranded in Colombia for weeks waiting to board by October 13
In the past week, border issues have been thrust back into the limelight, as a squalid camp of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas swelled to 15,000 last weekend.
On Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas revealed that nearly 30,000 Haitian migrants have been encountered trying to enter the country illegally since September 9.
He revealed that 2,000 have been expelled on 17 flights, 8,000 have returned to Haiti voluntarily, 12,400 have been released into the US and 5,000 are being processed.
That leaves 2,600 missing. Officials have said some have crossed back into Mexico, where they may attempt to enter the US again.
The camp in Del Rio has now been cleared, but new reports indicate that 19,000 migrants, who are mostly Haitian, are congregating in northern Colombia with plans to journey to the Texas crossing.
Harris chimed in on the latest border crisis on Friday, compared images of US Border Patrol Agents seeking to push back Haitian migrants to the brutality of slavery.
She told The View that images of mounted Border Patrol agents confronting migrants, which were widely and falsely described as depicting them whipping the migrants, ‘evoked images of some of the worst moments of our history’ including tactics ‘used against African Americans during times of slavery’.
‘Human beings should not be treated that way and as we all know it also evoked images of some of the worst moments of our history,’ VP Kamala Harris said on ABC’s ‘The View’ when asked about border agents using horses to push back Haitian immigrants
She called images of what she saw ‘horrible.’ A border agents’ union said the riders were using split reins, rather than whips, and the photographer said he did not see whipping
Photographer Paul Ratje, who took the controversial images, came forward on Friday to say that he did not see officers whipping migrants. Rather, the long reins of their mounts were swinging in the air as they tried to contain the crowd.
Harris’ new hires will bolster her staff in terms of public relations and speechwriting capabilities.
Frankel worked on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and then joined the White House as a speech writer until 2011.
He went on to work at speechwriting firm Fenway Strategies, Laurene Powell Jobs’ organization Emerson Collective, and PepsiCo, where he was a vice president.
Voles previously worked as director of communications for former Vice President Al Gore and advised Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid.
She went on to serve as senior vice president for communications and marketing at Fannie Mae and vice president of external relations at George Washington University.