US Vice President Kamala Harris visits US-Mexico border after facing criticism for absence

WION Web Team
Texas, United StatesUpdated: Jun 25, 2021, 11:22 PM IST

US Vice President Kamala Harris (2nd-L) tours the El Paso Border Patrol Station Photograph:(AFP)

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The trip comes a few days before Donald Trump visits the border, on June 30, in a bid to contrast his tough stance on immigration with successor Biden's more humane approach

Vice President Kamala Harris visited a border patrol facility near the US-Mexico border on Friday, aiming to counter claims from Republicans she has been slow to visit the region as part of her role addressing the root causes of immigration.

The trip comes a few days before Donald Trump visits the border, on June 30, in a bid to contrast his tough stance on immigration with successor Biden's more humane approach. 

"The vice president's trip to Guatemala and Mexico earlier this year was about the root causes, and this border visit is about the effects," her spokesperson Symone Sanders, told reporters on Thursday. "Both trips will inform the administration's root causes strategy."

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.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants, many fleeing poverty and violence in Central America, have attempted to cross into the United States in recent months, prompting scathing criticism from Republicans that President Joe Biden's more humane approach to immigration was provoking rather than preventing a crisis.

Those numbers were boosted by a coronavirus pandemic-related ban on seeking asylum, which encouraged repeated attempts to cross the border because getting caught carried no legal consequences.

Biden tasked Harris earlier this year with overseeing efforts to address what the administration describes as root causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The vice president traveled to Guatemala and Mexico in early June to address the issue, but caught flak from critics for comments that appeared to downplay the border crisis. 

She was also criticized for not stopping at the border for a firsthand look at the situation during her international mission.

Harris continues to address the root causes of illegal immigration "and work in coordination to get the situation under control," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

"This trip to the border on Friday will be a part of this effort."

Harris advisers have been careful to emphasize that her main focus related to immigration is addressing the root causes of migration.

She has been seeking economic and humanitarian solutions to improve conditions for residents of Central and North American countries who flee to the US. Her aides framed her trip to the border as part of an effort to better understand how to solve the problem.