Some Democrats have reportedly joined Republicans in urging Vice President Kamala Harris to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border to see the migrant surge fueling the crisis in the region firsthand.
However, the VP remains reluctant to visit the border, with a White House official telling the Los Angeles Times on condition of anonymity that going to the U.S.-Mexico line has nothing to do with addressing the “root causes” of migration, which Harris considers her mission.
President Joe Biden has charged his VP with leading the White House efforts to stem the influx of migrants, including unaccompanied children and families mainly from Central America, by addressing the “root causes” driving people to leave their home countries, including Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Republicans have condemned Harris for not visiting the U.S. border with Mexico, particularly in her new role as the leader of the White House response to the border crisis.
However, the Los Angeles Times acknowledged Wednesday that in a rare show of bipartisanship, Democrats are also calling on Harris to travel to the southern border to see the problem firsthand and show that the Biden Administration is making an effort to address the issue.
The Times reported
[S]ome Democrats, nonpartisan policy experts and pro-immigrant advocacy groups also say Harris should visit the border, as a high-level sign of the administration’s commitment to fixing the battered immigration system and so that Harris can witness the scope of the problem she has been asked to help fix.
“She’s playing it, in my opinion, very safe by not dealing with the border,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), whose district includes 194 miles along the U.S.-Mexico line, declared. Cuellar is known for criticizing members of his party on immigration.
“We want this issue to be managed quickly and in a better way,” he added. “I’d rather be talking about [money] that [is] going to small businesses or stimulus checks.”
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), who serves on a Senate subcommittee responsible for border issues, told PBS that Harris should “of course” go to the border as part of a comprehensive approach to developing a more humane immigration system.
Harris and her team justify her decision not to visit the border by pointing that other top officials, including U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, are responsible for border security.
“But we also have to deal with the root causes. Otherwise, we are just in a perpetual system of only dealing with the symptoms,” the vice president recently declared.
A White House official told the Times on condition of anonymity that despite the bipartisan push from lawmakers and immigration advocates, she still was not planning to visit the border.
The official noted that migration drivers from Central America do overlap with problems at the border, “but her going to the border doesn’t highlight the root causes,” while “visiting Guatemala and Mexico does just that.”
“We are not going to be dictated by Republican messaging on what we do and don’t do,” the official added.
Andrew Selee, the president of the Migration Policy Institute and one of the policy experts who have briefed Harris, told the LA Times:
She’d like her major focus to be on development, but in reality she is the diplomat in chief with Mexico and Central America, and that includes broader migration and border issues. She’s going to be drawn into some of the border issues.
Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a pro-immigration advocacy group, described the border situation as “an emergency” and urged Harris to study every aspect and hear from border agents and others who feel the immediate impact.
Nevertheless, the LA Times acknowledged that “some immigration experts and advocates say it’s neither necessary nor wise for Harris to rush to the border, which they argue could be a distraction.”
In the wake of Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress, members of both parties blasted the president for not providing any solutions to his border woes.
“Harris, so far, has resisted making plans to visit, pointing out that her job description involves diplomacy in Latin America rather than policy at the border,” the Times noted about the VP’s refusal to visit the border.
While Harris claims that her job involves diplomacy with Mexico and Central American countries, including Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, she has only spoken with the Mexican and Guatemalan presidents about the crisis.