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Kamala Harris to visit US-Mexico border area regarding migration

Harris will arrive in the area just days before former President Donald Trump is to visit the border with a group of House Republicans and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

SNS | WASHINGTON |

Amid criticism for failing to visit the US-Mexico border, Vice President Kamala Harris will make her first visit since taking office to the El Paso area on Friday.

She will be accompanied by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, according to a statement Wednesday from Harris senior adviser Symone Sanders.

Harris has faced months of criticism from Republicans, and even some frustration from those in her own party, for not visiting the area.

Harris has said her goal is to offer residents of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico hope for their future, so they no longer feel compelled to leave home for better opportunities.

Her aides have repeatedly insisted her efforts are distinct from the security issues that plague US officials trying to handle a spike in border crossings. But Republicans have pointed to the failures by both Harris and Biden to visit the border to paint the administration as absent in a crisis.

Harris will arrive in the area just days before former President Donald Trump is to visit the border with a group of House Republicans and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and Trump is certain to use the opportunity to drive Republican attacks on Democrats as soft on immigration.

She has noted that as a senator from California, she has visited the border in the past, and she has asserted that unless the root causes of migration are addressed the situation there will never be fixed.

It’s unclear what Harris’ plans include during her visit to the area, but one migrant detention facility in El Paso, at the Fort Bliss military post, has drawn criticism from advocates who have described unsafe conditions and allegations of abuse toward some of the thousands of children housed there.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the trip was “part of the coordinated effort between her office, her work, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, to continue to address the root causes and work in coordination to get the situation under control.”

While Psaki emphasized that border security is under Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas’ purview, she added that “it’s important every component of our government is coordinated” on the issue.

US Customs and Border Protection recorded more than 180,000 encounters on the Mexican border in May, the most since March 2000. Those numbers were boosted by a pandemic-related ban on seeking asylum, which encouraged repeated attempts to cross the border because getting caught carried no legal consequences.

But his engagement on the issue underscores the potential political peril for Democrats on immigration. An AP-NORC poll conducted in April found that more Americans disapprove than approve of how Biden is handling the sharply increasing number of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the US-Mexico border.

And Trump’s trip to the border marks another sign of how closely Republicans continue to align themselves with Trump and the extent to which they see the border as a winning campaign issue. The former president immediately took credit for Harris’ trip, speculating in a statement that the Vice President would not have made plans to go if he hadn’t been headed there himself.

Psaki said the administration “made an assessment within our government about when it was an appropriate time for her to go the border.”