Vice President Kamala Harris, in her first visit to the Texas-Mexico border since being appointed “immigration czar” by President Joe Biden more than three months ago, said Friday in El Paso that progress was being made on an issue that many have called a crisis.
“I call it progress, we’re not exactly where we want to be yet, but we’ve seen extreme progress over these last few months because of his dedication and his efforts,” Harris said of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
The U.S. has seen a surge in illegal immigration since January, with U.S. Border Patrol encountering 180,000 migrants attempting to cross into the country illegally in May alone.
Harris said her top priority is to address “the root causes of migration primarily out of Central America. We are here to talk about what has brought people here to the U.S. border to address what has caused people to leave their home countries.”
Last month, Harris visited Guatemala and Mexico. Her spokesperson said that what is happening at the border “is directly connected to what is happening in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. … directly connected to the work of addressing the root causes of migration.”
Until Friday’s trip, Harris faced growing criticism for not visiting the southern border despite the crisis. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last month issued a disaster declaration in response to several hundred thousand immigrants illegally entering the U.S. through Texas, leading to a surge in crime in many Texas communities.
Abbott also launched Operation Lonestar in March, directing the Texas Department of Public Safety to protect Texans from the surge, saying the federal government was not doing it’s job enforcing immigration laws.
Joining Harris in El Paso was Mayorkas, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso. Abbott was not present.
Harris and her entourage arrived at Customs and Border Patrol El Paso Sector Friday morning, toured the sector’s processing center, and later spoke with advocates from faith-based organizations and shelter and legal service providers.
Republicans argue Harris went to the wrong part of Texas, avoiding the areas where the flow of illegal immigration is the heaviest – the Rio Grande Valley Sector.
Others said she ignored visiting the most egregious area of El Paso: the federal detention facility at Fort Bliss, where advocates have raised concerns about unsafe conditions and allegations of abuse against thousands of migrant children housed there.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, whose district spans south of San Antonio to the U.S. Mexico border, says the Biden administration “is making Democrats look weak.”
Cuellar said Harris visiting El Paso was “politically safe,” because the brunt of the problem is 800 miles south in the Rio Grande Valley Sector.
Abbott has said that Texas will build its own border wall since Biden abandoned the project started by former President Donald Trump. The Texas governor is meeting Trump near McAllen, Texas, next week to discuss border security issues.
This article was originally posted on VP Harris visits U.S.-Mexico border as illegal immigration surge continues