Harris and her team have repeatedly fended off criticism that neither she nor the president has visited the U.S.-Mexico border, arguing that she is focusing more on addressing the destabilizing conditions that are pushing thousands of migrants out of the country. Central America to move towards the border seeking refuge. This was the central message of his first trip abroad, a two-day visit to Mexico and Guatemala earlier this month. While there, Harris met with local officials and pleaded with migrants not to cross Mexico into the United States.
Her trip, however, was complicated by lingering questions about whether she would go to the border to see the situation there. Harris’ response – in which she downplayed the need and noted that she hadn’t visited Europe either – only amplified criticism.
Harris’ visit to the border comes just days before former President Donald Trump heads to the border, where he will be joined by Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott and a group of House Republicans. Shortly after news of Harris’ visit began to circulate, Trump released a statement claiming that if he and Abbott “weren’t going next week, she never would have been!”
Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was one of many Republican lawmakers to lash out at Harris for announcing the trip, Cruz echoing Trump’s claim that the vice president was just trying to get out before the next visit of the former president. “Suddenly President Trump goes to the border and they realized, ‘Oh shit, we’ve got to do something,’” Cruz told Fox News.
But White House press secretary Jen Psaki argued Harris’s trip was simply part of his broader mandate to address the root causes of the increase in migration. During a White House press briefing, Psaki also noted to reporters that she had “said here from that podium – and [Harris] also said – that when it was the right time, [Harris] can go visit the border.
The number of migrants arriving at the southern border of the United States has skyrocketed in the months since the Biden administration took office. In May, more than 180,000 migrants were apprehended at the border, according to monthly figures from Customs and Border Protection.
Of these, the majority – over 112,000 – were almost immediately expelled. That’s because the Biden administration continued to use Title 42, a public health order invoked by former Trump in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic to deport migrants without letting them seek asylum.
The United States has also seen a record number of unaccompanied children taken into custody under the Biden administration. More than 18,800 unaccompanied children crossed the border in March, according to CBP figures; the highest monthly number recorded previously was over 11,000 children who crossed the border in May 2019. The number of child arrivals declined steadily in April and May, but remains well above the 2019 record. .
Much of the political attention to the southern border of the United States has dissipated in recent weeks. However, Biden continues to face the long-standing political and logistical challenges of handling increased numbers of migrant arrivals. Republicans have focused on increasing the number of migrants heading for the border as a line of attack against the Biden administration, repeatedly calling it the “Biden border crisis.”
They also criticized Harris, in particular, for not visiting the border after Biden tasked him with leading diplomatic efforts to tackle the root causes of migration, a job Biden had as vice president. during the Obama administration. At a press conference with the Guatemalan president earlier this month, Harris dismissed the criticism, saying his visit to the region was focused on finding ways to tackle irregular migration in a way “that is meaningful , is tangible and has real results ”.
“And I’ll continue to focus on that kind of work, as opposed to big gestures,” Harris said in Guatemala City.
But at the end of the trip, after repeated criticism for his response to questions about his border visit, Harris vowed to visit the border soon.
Sabrina Rodriguez, Eugene Daniels and Quint Forgey contributed to this report.