Vice President Kamala Harris visited a border patrol facility near the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday (June 25), aiming to counter claims from Republicans that she has been slow to visit the region as part of her role addressing the root causes of immigration.
The trip, her first to the border since becoming vice president five months ago, was announced on Wednesday (June 23) and appeared to have been hastily put together days before a border visit by former President Donald Trump.
A White House official said Harris’s schedule was not dictated by what the Republican Trump does.
“I said back in March I was going to come to the border, so this is not a new plan,” Harris told reporters after landing in Texas. “Coming to the border … is about looking at the effects of what we have seen happening in Central America.”
Republicans have criticized President Joe Biden, her fellow Democrat, for rolling back restrictive Trump-era immigration policies even as migrant detentions at the U.S.-Mexico border have reached 20-year highs in recent months.
Immigration remains a hot-button issue for both parties. Democrats and pro-immigrant activists have pressed Biden to further scale back enforcement and ensure humane treatment of migrant children and families arriving at the border.
White House officials have for months said Harris’s efforts to stem immigration from Central America are focused on diplomacy and are distinct from the security issues at the border.
Harris, who visited the border as a senator and attorney general from California, was assailed by Republicans when she visited Mexico and Guatemala this month as part of her efforts to lower migration from the region into the United States. Republicans criticized Harris for choosing El Paso rather than the area they point to as a hot spot for increased border crossings.
Harris was accompanied in El Paso by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dick Durbin and Democratic Representative from Texas Veronica Escobar, who called the El Paso area the new “Ellis Island,” a reference to the famed area in New York Harbor that processed millions of immigrants as they entered the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
(Production: Roselle Chen)