On Dec 9, 2021, Taiwan announced that a researcher working in a Biosafety-level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory in Taipei had tested positive for the Delta variant of COVID-19 “while experimenting on the virus in the lab.” Chen Shih-chung, the head of Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) confirmed that the female researcher had tested positive for COVID-19 after being “exposed to the pathogen” during research that was conducted in mid-November at the Academia Sinica’s Genomics Research Center in Taipei.
Notably, Taiwan has not experienced any recent cases of COVID-19, a fact noted by Chen who said, “We believe the possibility of infection from the workplace is higher because we have zero confirmed infections in the community.”
It was later reported that the researcher had been bitten by a mouse during two separate incidents. Taipei’s deputy mayor Huang Shan-shan, who described the woman as a “research assistant,” said that she had been bitten by a laboratory mouse carrying the Gamma strain of the virus on Oct. 15, but subsequently tested negative for infection.
Taiwan’s Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung arrives at a press conference at the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control in Taipei on March 11, 2020. (Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)
However, a little more than a month later on Nov. 19, she was again bitten by a mouse in the lab. This time, for reasons that remain unknown, the researcher did not undergo testing after the second bite until well after she had developed physical symptoms. According to Taiwan News, the woman developed a cough in late November, which intensified during the first week of December, but she did not seek out testing until Dec. 8.
James Liao, the president of Academia Sinica, cited six separate failures that contributed to the infection incident. These included the “failure to duly report a scientist being bitten by lab mice; not working with lab mice in a biosafety cabinet; not following protocols in removing hazmat suits; new personnel not receiving adequate training; lack of supervision and monitoring during experiments; and lax management in lab practices.”
Academia Sinica’s Genomics Research Center in Taipei, Taiwan, on Feb. 6, 2018. (Lysimachi/CC BY-SA 4.0)
Taiwan Leak Occurred Despite Use of High Security Lab
Taiwan’s lab leak of COVID-19 took place at a BSL-3 lab, which mandates the use of personal protective equipment, biosafety cabinets, sustained directional airflow without recirculation, as well as self-closing and interlocked doors. By contrast, the gain-of-function experiments being conducted on coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were done at much less secure BSL-2 labs.
As context, Rutgers University biologist Richard Ebright has stated: “BSL-2 is the biosafety level of a US dentist’s office (i.e., lockable door, screened windows, sterilizer, gown, and gloves).” Ebright told the Financial Times: “If [coronavirus] work was happening, it should definitely not have been happening at BSL-2, that is roughly equivalent to a standard dentist office.”
The use of BSL-2 labs for gain-of-function experiments by the Wuhan Institute of Virology has been heavily criticized by many scientists. Michael Lin, a bioengineer at Stanford University, told MIT Technology Review that allowing work on potentially dangerous bat viruses at BSL-2 is “an actual scandal.”
And a prominent and early supporter of the natural origins narrative, Columbia University virologist Ian Lipkin, changed his mind about the virus’s origin after the Wuhan Institute admitted it conducted its coronavirus experiments at a BSL-2 lab.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” Lipkin stated. “People should not be looking at bat viruses in BSL-2 labs.”
Lipkin said that he now considers a lab leak to be a viable theory, saying that his “view has changed.”
Taiwan Leak Response Stands in Stark Contrast to CCP’s Wuhan Response
Additionally, the open and immediate manner in which the Taiwanese government handled its lab leak incident contrasts sharply with China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials refused to acknowledge the outbreak until Taiwan notified international authorities on Dec. 31, 2019. But despite the CCP’s refusal to acknowledge an outbreak, there were earlier warnings from those stationed in Wuhan.
According to the U.S. Consul General in Wuhan, the city was hit by an unusually vicious flu-like outbreak in October 2019. And a November 2019 intelligence report by the U.S. military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence reportedly warned of a contagion and stated that “it could be a cataclysmic event.” Chinese authorities have reportedly traced early cases of COVID-19 to mid-November.
A man wears a mask while walking in the street in Wuhan, China on Jan. 22, 2020. (Getty Images)
Notably, at the same time that the outbreak in Wuhan appeared to be reaching a critical juncture, the Wuhan Center for Disease Control, which was conducting coronavirus research alongside the Wuhan Institute of Virology, suddenly moved its lab’s location on Dec. 2, 2019, to a spot just a few hundred yards from the Huanan Seafood market—which would initially be cited as the origin of the early COVID-19 cases. The CDC’s new location for its lab was also directly adjacent to another hotspot of later COVID-19 cases, the Union Hospital, where a group of doctors first became infected.
The genomic sequence of COVID-19 was discovered no later than Dec. 27, 2019. Both Chinese and Western scientists obtained copies at that time. But, under pressure from the CCP, neither Chinese nor Western scientists shared the information publicly. When a Chinese scientist from Shanghai finally released the sequence on Jan. 11, 2020, the CCP shut down his lab.
The CCP’s cover-up and the capitulation by scientists allowed the virus to continue to spread at a critical time. It also gave the CCP additional time to obfuscate the virus’s origins and create a Natural Origins narrative centered around the Huanan Seafood Market.
Additionally, although the World Health Organization’s (WHO) initial report on the origins of the outbreak stated that a lab leak was extremely unlikely, the lead investigator of that report, Peter Ben Embarek, told a Danish documentary team that the lab leak theory was probable, and suggested that a Chinese researcher could have been infected by a bat while taking samples in connection with research at a Wuhan lab.
A sign of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 24, 2020. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)
Embarek also admitted that a deal had been struck between the WHO’s investigative team and their Chinese counterparts. The lab leak theory could be mentioned in the WHO’s final report, but only on the condition the report didn’t recommend any specific studies to further that hypothesis.
China’s censorship has taken many forms. Recently, Peter Daszak, the president of EcoHealth, the body through which Dr. Anthony Fauci funded the Wuhan Institute of Virology, told the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that he was unable to hand over requested genetic sequence data from his gain-of-function experiments to the NIH because the data was going through an approval process by CCP authorities.
WHO team member Peter Daszak leaves his hotel after the World Health Organization (WHO) team wrapped up its investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on February 10, 2021. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)
This arrangement with the CCP is a breach of the terms and conditions of Daszak’s NIH grant, which specifically required that all genetic sequence data be made publicly available. CCP oversight and control was not part of Daszak’s agreement.
The fact that genetic sequence data that may relate directly to the origin of the pandemic remains under the control of the CCP also raises questions about the claims of both Daszak and NIH that their Wuhan experiments could not have caused the pandemic.
Lab Leaks Common
The incident in Taiwan has renewed the debate over the origin of the pandemic. According to Yanzhong Huang, a Chinese public health expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, “if the lab worker is confirmed to have been infected at her workplace, then this will add credibility to the lab leak theory.”
Although this case is raising new questions about the likelihood of a lab as the origin of the pandemic, lab leaks are not as rare as the media would have the public believe.
The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic marked the first appearance of the H1N1 virus. Although the initial outbreak was natural, the virus’s sudden reappearance in the late 1970s was actually due to a laboratory leak of a stored strain of the H1N1 virus. We know this because the genetic sequence of the virus in the 1970s outbreak was nearly identical to the sequences of decades-old strains. Put another way, the virus was not evolving during this time, it was sitting in a lab. Indeed, the NIH notes that a “biosafety lapse in a research laboratory is now most often cited as the cause of the 1977-1978 reemergence of the H1N1 influenza virus strain.”
Seattle policemen wear white cloth face masks during the Spanish flu pandemic, Dec. 1918. (Public Domain)
In 1979, spores of anthrax leaked from a lab in the Soviet Union, killing scores of people. At the time Soviet authorities covered up the origins of the outbreak, claiming that it came from contaminated meat. In a twist eerily reminiscent of the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 origins investigation, a molecular biologist from Harvard University, Matthew Meselson, was allowed to travel to the Soviet Union to investigate the outbreak.
Upon his return, he issued a report that backed the Soviet version of events, claiming that the outbreak started at a contaminated meat processing plant. Meselson stated that that explanation was “plausible and consistent with what is known from medical literature and recorded human experiences with anthrax.” In another parallel to the natural origins narrative for COVID-19, where illegal wildlife markets were initially blamed for the pandemic, Meselson claimed that the outbreak was caused by “the illegal sale of meat.”
After the fall of the Soviet Union, it was finally revealed in 1992 that the outbreak had in fact originated at a military research facility.
The original Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003 made headlines across the world. However, a lesser known fact is that the SARS virus has subsequently leaked out of various labs at least six times. The first incident occurred in Singapore—a country known for its meticulousness and attention to detail—shortly after the initial outbreak ended. There were subsequent SARS lab leaks in Beijing as well as in Taiwan in 2003 and 2004.
The years 2013 and 2014 were particularly bad for lab accidents. Notably, many of the accidents that happened during this period took place at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where lab mice escaped the university’s lab on at least eight occasions, including mice that were infected with SARS and H1N1 viruses. In response, the NIH stated that “it appears the measures taken by the University of North Carolina to reduce the likelihood of these events have not been effective.”
Poor biosafety at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is all the more notable in light of the fact that the university houses Ralph Baric’s lab. In 2015, Baric, who is a pioneer of gain-of-function experiments, famously collaborated with the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Shi Zhengli, to create a hybrid version of a bat coronavirus that had been adapted to grow in mice and to mimic human disease.
Chinese virologist Shi Zhengli is seen inside the P4 laboratory in Wuhan, capital of China’s Hubei Province, on Feb. 23, 2017. (Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images)
Richard Ebright, who warned in 2015 that the only impact of gain-of-function work was “the creation, in a lab, of a new, non-natural risk,” has stated that these prior leaks underscore the fact that it “is eminently plausible that a Wuhan laboratory worker handling Sars-related coronaviruses was infected and then transmitted the infection to the general public, sparking the pandemic.” Notably, Ebright’s 2015 warning was in response to the experiments carried out by Baric and Shi Zhengli.
Incidents of lab leaks in just the last 10 years have involved notably dangerous pathogens, including Dengue, Anthrax, H5N1, smallpox, Ebola and Zika.
Although there are far too many incidents of lab leaks to list here, one event is particularly relevant—the November 2019 lab accident in China when nearly 200 staff at the Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute became infected with brucellosis, also known as Mediterranean Fever. Subsequently, thousands of residents of Lanzhou reportedly also fell ill. CCP authorities have denied that the Veterinary Research Institute was responsible, blaming the outbreak on polluted waste gas from a pharmaceutical facility which was allegedly carried by wind to the research institute. Ironically, even if the CCP’s version of events is accurate, it would still have been a lab accident.
Taiwan’s Leak Refocuses Debate on COVID-19 Origin
The Lanzhou outbreak, which happened at almost exactly the same time as the Wuhan outbreak, should have served as an immediate red flag for anyone looking into the origins of COVID-19. But the Lanzhou Outbreak has been largely ignored by the media. The incident underscored not only that laboratory accidents happen with disturbing regularity but also that the CCP has a history of covering them up.
In 2019, Yuan Zhiming, the vice-director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, wrote a review of the many safety deficiencies within China’s many laboratories. He noted that “several high-level BSLs have insufficient operational funds for routine yet vital processes,” noting that many of China’s BSL-3 laboratories “run on extremely minimal operational costs or in some cases none at all.”
Just one year earlier, in 2018, U.S. Embassy officials visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology and warned the State Department that there was “inadequate safety at the lab, which was conducting risky studies on coronaviruses from bats.” They also reported that there was a lack of trained staff at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
FDA Commissioner-designate Scott Gottlieb testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 5, 2017. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration head Scott Gottlieb has stated that “lab leaks happen all the time.” During a May 2021 interview on Face the Nation, Gottlieb noted, “In China, the last six known outbreaks of SARS-1 have been out of labs, including the last known outbreak, which was a pretty extensive outbreak that China initially wouldn’t disclose that it came out of a lab.” Gottlieb said that “It was only disclosed finally by some journalists who were able to trace that outbreak back to a laboratory.”
The transparency and responsiveness with which Taiwan handled its recent biosafety lapse contrasts sharply with China’s ongoing efforts to impede any investigation into the origins of the pandemic. China’s efforts to thwart any true investigation of the virus’s origin also raise questions as to why the United States was providing technology and funding for gain-of-function experiments to a communist regime that is known for its lack of transparency.
Former-MI6 chief, Sir Richard Dearlove recently summed up China’s approach to the pandemic when he told the Australian, “I’m pretty sure that the Chinese after the outbreak in Wuhan, and they’re very good at doing this, sat down and developed their own information campaign and this was almost certainly driven by the Ministry of State Security and run out of the PRC leadership to make sure that there was suppression of any suggestion that their narrative was not the correct one.”
Dearlove echoed the concerns of many when he ominously noted that ”what concerns me and what worries me is the extent to which the West went along with this.”
UK’s Johnson Urges Talks As Unions Threaten “Biggest Rail Strike In Modern History”
UK’s Johnson Urges Talks As Unions Threaten "Biggest Rail Strike In Modern History"
Authored by Alexander Zhang via The Epoch Times,
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged rail unions to talk to the government before causing “irreparable damage” with strike action.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers (RMT) is holding a ballot of its 40,000 members on plans to strike over jobs, pay, and conditions. The ballot is set to close on Tuesday, and the union has claimed that a yes vote could lead to “the biggest rail strike in modern history.”
Another union, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), has also warned of a “summer of discontent” with similar action on the way unless pay disputes are resolved.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said on Monday:
“Railways are going through difficult times with passenger numbers down. We need to make sure they’re fit for the future.”
He said the government wants “a fair deal for staff, for passengers, and taxpayers” so that “money isn’t taken away from other essential services” such as the National Health Service.
“The prime minister is firmly of the view that unions should talk to the government before causing irreparable damage to our railways—strikes should be the last resort not the first,” he added.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told The Sunday Telegraph that ministers are looking at drawing up laws which would make industrial action illegal unless a certain number of staff are working.
Shapps said the government hopes the unions will “wake up and smell the coffee” and suggested that strikes could put more people off rail travel.
He also accused unions of going straight to industrial action rather than using it as a last resort, adding that railways were already on “financial life support” because of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
Referring to a pledge in the Conservative Party’s 2019 election manifesto, which promised minimum services during rail strikes, he said:
“We had a pledge in there about minimum service levels. If they really got to that point then minimum service levels would be a way to work towards protecting those freight routes and those sorts of things.”
Unions have reacted to the threat with anger.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said, “Any attempt by Grant Shapps to make effective strike action illegal on the railways will be met with the fiercest resistance from RMT and the wider trade union movement.”
He said the government needs to “focus all their efforts on finding a just settlement” to the rail dispute rather than “attack the democratic rights of working people.”
CytoDyn Inc (OTCMKTS: CYDY) On the Comeback Trail (HIV Leronlimab Update)
CytoDyn Inc (OTCMKTS: CYDY) continues to move steadily higher in recent trading since hitting lows of $0.231 after the FDA placed a partial clinical hold…
CytoDyn Inc (OTCMKTS: CYDY) continues to move steadily higher in recent trading since hitting lows of $0.231 after the FDA placed a partial clinical hold on the Company’s HIV program and a full clinical hold on its COVID-19 program in the United States. CYDY was one of the biggest runners of 2020 skyrocketing from pennies to $10 per share and MIcrocapdaily covered the stock regularly back in those exciting times. Since than CYDY has been downward bound, first suffering from the Citron short attack and more recently the March 30 drop after the FDA hold. Further, CytoDyn elected to pause its Brazil COVID-19 trials pending results from its previously scheduled data safety monitoring committee meeting and is in the process of reevaluating the timing of its HIV BLA resubmission. CYDY saw further declines after the Company’s CEO and registered public accounting firm, Warren Averett LLC, both resigned.
On May 23 CYDY reached a non-cash settlement with its former Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Richard Pestell. The Company will release to Dr. Pestell 8.3 million shares of CYDY held in escrow, transfer to Dr. Pestell the assets acquired from ProstaGene LLC and subsequently written-off by the Company and issue a warrant at an exercise price of $0.37 per share to Dr. Pestell for seven million shares of the Company’s common stock. Dr. Pestell and the Company are also exploring ways in which Dr. Pestell can reengage with the Company to help realize Leronlimab’s full potential in oncology. This is an important step forward for CytoDyn as any potential suitor would want the current management to clear the deck of lawsuits before initiating a buyout or partnership. Also, an all-stock settlement shows a lot of faith in the Company from Dr. Pestell who make come back. At this point Cytodyn must find a sponsor or partner to get Leronmilab back on track for HIV.
The underlying science of Leronmilab has not changed; leronlimab has demonstrated significant potential to attack a number of diseases including cancer, and HIV. Considering how fast CYDY dropped the bounce potential here is significant and when CYDY does make a definitive move northbound the stock could make rapid gains in a very shorty time period. Management remains hopeful the FDA will review the case and stop the hold of Leronlimab.
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CytoDyn Inc (OTCMKTS: CYDY) is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of leronlimab, an investigational humanized IgG4 monoclonal antibody (mAb) that is designed to bind to C-C chemokine receptor type 5 (CCR5), a protein on the surface of certain immune system cells that is believed to play a role in numerous disease processes. CytoDyn is studying leronlimab in multiple therapeutic areas, including infectious disease, cancer, and autoimmune conditions.
In January Cytodyn reported positive results from the 350 mg weekly dose of its Phase 2 NASH clinical trial. The trial was conducted in two parts. Part 1 compared a 700 mg weekly dose and placebo in a double-blind randomized manner and Part 2 evaluated a 350 mg weekly dose as an open label study compared to the same placebo blinded arm. Results of the topline report will be announced when available.
The pre-clinical and clinical development of PRO 140 was led by Progenics Pharmaceuticals, Inc. through 2011. The Company acquired the asset from Progenics in October 2012. In February 2018, CYDY announced it had met the primary endpoint in its Phase 3 trial for leronlimab as a combination therapy with HAART for highly treatment-experienced HIV patients and first submitted the non-clinical portion of the Company’s Biologics License Application (“BLA”) to the FDA in March 2019.
— TL (@THL99999) May 21, 2022
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Cytodyns current business strategy is to resubmit its BLA to the FDA as soon as possible, to finalize with the FDA our submitted protocol for a pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial with leronlimab as a monotherapy for HIV patients, to seek emergency use authorization and approval for leronlimab as a potential therapeutic benefit for COVID-19 patients with mild-to-moderate, severe-to-critical, and long-haulers indications in the U.S., Brazil, and other countries, to advance the Company’s clinical trials with leronlimab for various forms of cancer, including, among others, the Phase 2 clinical trial for metastatic triple-negative breast cancer and Phase 2 basket trial for 22 solid tumor cancers, to complete the Phase 2 trial for liver fibrosis associated with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (“NASH”), and to explore other cancer and immunologic indications for leronlimab.
On May 23 CYDY announced it has reached a non-cash settlement with its former Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Richard Pestell, concerning an ongoing legal dispute related to his former employment with the Company.
Under the terms of the agreement, the parties will release each other of all claims, and the Company will release to Dr. Pestell 8.3 million shares of the Company’s common stock held in escrow, transfer to Dr. Pestell the assets acquired from ProstaGene LLC and subsequently written-off by the Company and issue a warrant at an exercise price of $0.37 per share to Dr. Pestell for seven million shares of the Company’s common stock. Dr. Pestell and the Company are also exploring ways in which Dr. Pestell can reengage with the Company to help realize leronlimab’s full potential in oncology. CytoDyn regrets Dr. Pestell’s departure from the Company and the subsequent public statements made by its former CEO about Dr. Pestell.
Dr. Pestell has published more than 600 works, is the most frequently cited scientist in the field of cell-cycle control and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours for distinguished service to medicine and medical education. He has served on editorial boards of six journals, was the Director of two NCI-designated Cancer Centers and has founded several biotechnology companies. He serves as an advisor and reviewer for a number of domestic and international research centers, including NCI cancer centers.
$CYDY 8-K CytoDyn (23 May, 4:03pm)
— Docoh Feed (@investor_feed) May 23, 2022
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Currently trading at a $226 million market valuation CYDY is an SEC filer and is fully reporting OTCQB. The Company has close to $100 million in assets and about that in debt. At current price levels CYDY is worth a close look; CYDY was one of the biggest runners of 2020 skyrocketing from pennies to $10 per share. While there are plenty of ricks not to mention the CEO and accounting firm resigning CYDY is moving northbound now and looks to be coming back. The underlying science has not changed; Leronlimab has demonstrated significant potential to attack a number of diseases including cancer and HIV. Considering how fast CYDY dropped the bounce potential here is significant and when CYDY does make a definitive move northbound the stock could make rapid gains in a very shorty time period. Management remains hopeful the FDA will review the case and stop the hold of Leronlimab. We will be updating on CYDY when more details emerge so make sure you are subscribed to Microcapdaily so you know what’s going on with CYDY.
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Disclosure: we hold no position in CYDY either long or short and we have not been compensated for this article.
The post CytoDyn Inc (OTCMKTS: CYDY) On the Comeback Trail (HIV Leronlimab Update) first appeared on Micro Cap Daily.emergency use authorization covid-19 treatment fda clinical trials therapy brazil
Immigration Disappears From Kamala Harris’ Public Schedule
Immigration Disappears From Kamala Harris’ Public Schedule
Authored by Philip Wegmann via RealClear Politics (emphasis ours),
It was her…
Authored by Philip Wegmann via RealClear Politics (emphasis ours),
It was her first overseas trip, and Vice President Harris, recently deputized to address what the White House calls “the root causes of migration,” was in Guatemala trying to break through with a simple message. “Do not come,” Harris told would-be migrants last June. “Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our borders.”
They did not listen, or if any migrants did hear Harris last year, many ignored her message. Just last month, according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, 234,088 migrants were apprehended at the southern border, the highest mark ever recorded.
Asked that same month if President Biden had confidence in Harris and her ability to handle the situation, then-White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki replied, “he absolutely does.” But as the flow of migrants accelerates across the southern border, immigration has disappeared from the vice president’s public schedule.
A compilation of that schedule by the Los Angeles Times, reviewed by RealClearPolitics, shows that Harris has not hosted an immigration-specific event since last summer. The last one, a meeting with Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander leaders in the White House last August, touched briefly on immigration.
White House officials dispute any characterization that Harris’ public schedule tells the whole story. “The vice president continues to lead implementation of the Root Causes Strategy and has been engaging with Cabinet and other Administration officials on this effort,” Harris’ Press Secretary Kirsten Allen told RCP.
Addressing the challenge remains part of the vice president’s policy portfolio. She leads top-level meetings that are not always made public, and she has taken point in diplomatic efforts in the region. For instance, it was Harris who traveled to Honduras for the inauguration of President Xiomara Castro in January. Administration officials hoped to find a new ally in that executive, someone who would help stem the flow of the millions of people heading north through Central America to the southern border. According to an official White House readout, Harris and Castro discussed “a broad range of issues.” Among them migration, but also coronavirus and the economy as well as corruption and gender-based violence.
Despite those efforts, the influx has not slowed, and Biden is expected to end enforcement of Title 42, the pandemic policy that allowed Border Patrol to turn away hundreds of thousands of migrants on public health grounds. Warnings from some Democrats in border states, including Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, have gone unheeded.
The Department of Homeland Security is bracing for more record-breaking numbers at the border, and NBC News reports that there is concern in the department that they won’t have enough funding to address a surge if Title 42 is lifted, compounding a challenge that Biden has faced since the beginning of his presidency.
As the number of interdictions started to rise and chaotic images from the southern border flooded cable news, concern grew, even among Democrats. Biden’s own pollsters, the New York Times reported, warned that the issue was “a growing vulnerability." Biden still insisted that he could get the situation under control, albeit with divine intervention.
“Is there a crisis at the border?” RCP asked the president as he walked out of the East Room of the White House after a speech last March.
“No,” Biden replied over his shoulder. “We’ll be able to handle it,” he said while walking side-by-side with Harris. “God willing.”
Two weeks later, the Associated Press reported at the time, Biden tapped Harris to lead the administration efforts to tackle the migration challenge at the southern border and work with Central American nations to address root causes of the problem. Republicans were eager to assign blame and dubbed Harris “border czar.”
The vice president rejected that framing and sought to clarify her mission. As the White House press secretary explained to reporters last March, Harris “will be helping lead that effort, specifically the root causes – not the border,” admitting that there has been “some confusion over that.”
The president was also confused: When Biden and Harris met with the Congressional Black Caucus in April that year, he praised his vice president, saying she would do “a hell of a job” handling immigration, according to a new book by New York Times’ reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns. But Harris corrected him then and there, the two write. “Excuse me,” she said, “it's the Northern Triangle – not immigration.”
Biden eventually clarified the mission. “It’s not her full responsibility,” he later told reporters, but “when she speaks, she speaks for me.”
Whether she wanted the job or not, Harris embraced the challenge. She has made three trips to the region, and she traveled to the southern border to hear directly from Border Patrol. The vice president has met both with law enforcement and migrant groups, stressing all the while that the question “cannot be reduced to a political issue.”
Politics were there from the beginning though, and some feared that deputizing Harris to tackle such a mammoth challenge ran the risk of unfairly saddling her with a thankless mission for which there is no easy solution. “She is qualified to do the job,” Chuck Rocha told RCP of Biden’s decision to turn this part of his policy portfolio over to his vice president. Rocha helmed Latino outreach for Sen. Bernie Sanders in both of that candidate’s presidential bids, and Rocha credited Harris for being “a staunch advocate of the progressive wing of the immigration movement.”
All the same, Rocha warned last year that expectations should be tempered: “It has been an issue that we have been trying to fix for generations, one that I don’t think any one person can totally solve.”
Biden has called on Congress to take up comprehensive immigration reform since he got to the White House. There is no bipartisan appetite on Capitol Hill for the bill that he sent to Congress on his first day in office. The administration has subsequently been left to its own devices, and Harris released a 20-page plan last July to address the problem.
“We will build on what works, and we will pivot away from what does not work,” Harris wrote in an introduction to the plan that focuses on creating partnerships with Northern Triangle countries to combat corruption, violence, and poverty.
“It will not be easy, and progress will not be instantaneous,” the vice president warned, “but we are committed to getting it right.” Biden should know. He was deputized by then-President Obama to deal with a similar mission amid an earlier surge of migrants, many of them unaccompanied children. On a tour of Central and South American nations in 2014, he offered U.S. help to root out corruption, provide economic opportunity, and ensure safety in the Northern Triangle nations.
“We have to deal with the root causes,” Vice President Biden told reporters gathered for a press conference in the residence of the U.S. ambassador to Guatemala, echoing the exact phrase his administration now uses eight years later.
Biden understands the challenge, and that tackling it without help from Congress is arduous and thankless, if not impossible.
“I said when we became a team and got elected, that the vice president was going to be the last person in the room,” he joked last March when he announced that Harris would helm the mission. “She didn’t realize that means she gets every assignment.”
“I gave you a tough job, and you’re smiling, but there’s no one better capable of trying to organize this for us,” the president continued after the levity. The vice president didn’t flinch. She thanked him “for having confidence in me.” Then Harris added, “there’s no question that this is a challenging situation.”
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