The dissatisfaction with Becerra centers on complaints he’s been slow to take charge of the response since his confirmation on March 18, according to eight current and former government officials and others familiar with the situation. The administration has scrambled to find new shelters and speed the vetting of adults to care for the children as thousands remain in packed detention facilities along the border.
Biden aides led by Domestic Policy chief Susan Rice and Amy Pope, a senior adviser on migration hired to help direct the administration’s border response, have pressed the health department in meetings over the past several weeks to pick up the pace, warning that the influx of unaccompanied children is only likely to accelerate into the spring and early summer.
But a month into Becerra’s tenure, officials working on the issue have privately questioned his preparedness for managing such a sprawling emergency — and his willingness to take ownership of a historically intractable and politically divisive problem.
“He did not fully appreciate the issue when he first came in,” said one senior administration official. “It’s been a steep learning curve for him.”
Dismayed by the slow progress, the White House has concluded that Becerra’s team needs help organizing care for the rising number of migrant children spread throughout shelters administered by the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement — a population that’s fast approaching 20,000.