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Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden is putting Vice President Harris in charge of addressing the migrant surge at the U.S.-Mexico border, senior administration officials announced on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Just as President Obama tasked Biden with fixing the U.S. economy after he assumed office in 2009, Biden is putting his own vice president in charge of a problem threatening to overshadow the new administration's successful launch.

  • Harris will lead efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) to manage the flow of unaccompanied children and migrant families arriving at the border in numbers not seen since a surge in 2019.
  • "Starting today, the Northern Triangle nations and Mexico will know there was one senior official dedicated to this effort. To be very clear, this is an important task," a senior administration official told reporters during a conference call.
  • It was held just an hour before a White House event with Biden, Harris, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

The announcement and high-level meeting, coming the same day the White House arranged a trip for senior aides and members of Congress to South Texas, illustrated the breadth of the administration's efforts to get control of the problem.

  • Republicans say Biden is to blame for refusing to reinstate a Trump-era policy to expel unaccompanied minors, as well as more accommodating language the president's own press secretary concedes is connected to the administration's humanitarian values.

What they're saying: "President Biden said during the transition, whatever the most urgent need, he would turn to the vice president," one of the three officials briefing reporters said, "and today he is turning to the vice president."

  • The first goal will be stemming the flow of illegal migrants to the U.S.
  • In a broader context, Harris also will work on establishing a strategic partnership with the Central American countries "based on respect and shared values," another official said.
  • The work will be conducted with the understanding that "these countries are our friends and our neighbors. They are members of our shared community of the Americas and within the Western Hemisphere."

Details: One official said Harris spoke Wednesday morning with Ricardo Zúñiga, the State Department’s special envoy to the Northern Triangle.

  • Zúñiga and other top border officials left earlier this week for Mexico and planned to go on to Guatemala with the goal of addressing local problems fueling the migration north.
  • They include lax responses to the coronavirus pandemic, rampant crime, as well as the aftereffects of two hurricanes that blew through the region.
  • The Biden administration has discussed increased aid to address some of these root concerns.

The bottom line: "The people of the Northern Triangle certainly deserve to experience freedom and opportunity, and be able to access protection within the Northern Triangle," one official told reporters.

  • "They shouldn't have to come to the United States to seek that freedom and opportunity, and that's what she'll be working toward."
  • Among the items to tackle are local corruption and ways to improve local economies.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

In photos: Students evacuated as wildfire burns historic Cape Town buildings

Firefighters try, in vain, to extinguish a fire in the Jagger Library, at the University of Cape Town, after a forest fire came down the foothills of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, on Sunday. Photo: Rodger Bosch/AFP via Getty Images

A massive wildfire spread from the foothills of Table Mountain to the University of Cape Town Sunday, burning historic South African buildings and forcing the evacuation of 4,000 students, per Times Live.

The big picture: Visitors to the Table Mountain National Park and other nearby attractions were also evacuated and several roads including a major highway, were closed. South Africa's oldest working windmill and the university's Jagger Library, which houses SA antiquities, are among the buildings damaged.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

3 killed, 2 wounded overnight in Kenosha bar shooting

Three people died and two others were hospitalized with serious injuries after a gunman entered bar in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, the police department said in a statement on Sunday.

The latest: Officers arrested a "person of interest" Sunday afternoon in connection with the 12:42 a.m. shooting and there's "no threat to the community at this time," per a later police statement.

Updated 3 hours ago - Sports

Big European soccer teams announce breakaway league

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) after striking the ball during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg match between Liverpool F.C. and Real Madrid at Anfield in Liverpool, England, last Wednesday. Photo: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

12 of world soccer's biggest and richest clubs announced Sunday they've formed a breakaway European "Super League" — with clubs Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona Real Madrid, Juventus and A.C. Milan among those to sign up.

Why it matters: The prime ministers of the U.K. and Italy are among those to express concern at the move — which marks a massive overhaul of the sport's structure and finances, and it effectively ends the decades-old UEFA Champions League's run as the top tournament for European soccer.