published : 2023-09-07

Rice Steamed at Becerra for Pushing Back on White House Immigration Assignment: Book

Becerra asked for the request to come from the president in writing, according to the book

A photo of Susan Rice during her time as a White House adviser, taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Former White House adviser Susan Rice was steamed at Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra for pushing back on an immigration assignment from President Biden, as detailed in journalist Franklin Foer's new book 'The Last Politician'.

When Becerra arrived at his post in 2021, his first assignment involved HHS taking in additional unaccompanied migrant children from Border Patrol. Becerra was hesitant and attempted to avoid the task.

During a phone call with over two dozen White House officials, including Susan Rice, Becerra was called upon to expand the number of migrant children in HHS custody. Becerra argued that his department required one caregiver per eight children, and the White House's request would disrupt this ratio and hinder the department's ability to care for the children.

Rice pushed back, acknowledging that moving more children into HHS custody might not be ideal but highlighting that the facilities were better suited for their needs.

An image of Xavier Becerra speaking at a press conference regarding immigration, captured with a Nikon D850

Becerra, growing frustrated, asked for the request from President Biden to be put in writing, stating, 'I'll do it if I get a request from the president in writing.'

Rice's response irritated Becerra further, as she informed him that he would not receive a written request from the president. She emphasized that the President of the United States operates differently and that he had already given Becerra an order.

Later that week, President Biden, after learning about the call, became furious. In a meeting with Becerra and other advisors, he expressed his anger and asked, 'Who am I going to fire in this meeting?' Biden felt the need to make it clear to Becerra that he was to take in the migrant children into HHS custody.

Reluctantly, Becerra responded to Biden, 'I will do what's requested of me.' Vice President Kamala Harris acknowledged his compliance, stating, 'It's good of you to do your job.'

A snapshot of President Biden in the Oval Office, contemplating the challenges of border control, taken with a Sony Alpha A7 III

The Biden administration has faced challenges concerning the border since taking office, with the White House pressuring Becerra to expedite the intake of migrant children.

The New York Times reported that Biden 'lashed out' at Becerra during an Oval Office meeting in March 2021 when Becerra struggled to provide answers about the agency's ability to care for the children.

The article also revealed tensions between Becerra and the White House, with Becerra being frustrated by the administration's decisions to drop immigration restrictions and policies before he was confirmed in his position.