U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is visiting the U.S.-Mexico border Friday as part of her effort to curb the surge in migrants attempting to enter the United States, while examining the root causes of migration from Central America.
Her office said Wednesday she would be accompanied to El Paso, Texas, one of the main migrant entry points, by Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas.
The vice president is expected to be met by local Democratic congresswoman Veronica Escobar. She also is scheduled to talk with faith-based leaders and organizations involved in sheltering and providing legal services to the migrants.
Harris visited Guatemala and Mexico earlier this month, pointedly telling migrants, “Do not come” to the U.S.
But thousands of migrants from those two countries, along with those from Honduras and El Salvador, have been making the long trek to the border, many on foot, escaping poverty and crime in their homelands, they say.
U.S. border agents are facing the biggest number of undocumented migrants in two decades. They caught more than 180,000 at the border in May, mostly single adults. The figure was up slightly from the 170,000-plus numbers in both March and April.
Most of the migrants are coming from Latin America, but many also are from Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and some African nations.
The surge has grown since President Joe Biden and Harris took office in January, with Biden saying he was adopting what he called a more humane stance on migration than the Trump administration. Biden picked Harris to oversee efforts to curb the migration by addressing the root causes in Latin America for people to leave their homelands.
Biden has ended construction of former President Donald Trump’s border wall, and unlike his predecessor, who expelled the migrants to their home countries, he is allowing unaccompanied children to enter the U.S. But like Trump, Biden is refusing to allow families and single adults to enter.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the average daily number of children in its custody has now dropped to 640. Another 16,200 migrant children are being held by U.S. health authorities though, while the government attempts to place them with relatives already living in the U.S. or with vetted caregivers willing to take them into their homes.
Republicans have blamed Biden for the border surge. Before meeting with Harris in early June, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei also told CBS News that when Biden took office, “the very next day, the coyotes were here organizing groups of children to take them to the United States.”
Harris faced frequent questions on her foreign trip, her first as the U.S. second-in-command, about why she had not visited the border. Frustrated at the questions, she told NBC News she also had not visited Europe since taking office.
Opposition Republicans have criticized her lack of a visit to crowded migrant holding facilities at the border, at one point posting a mock-up of a milk carton with her picture that was captioned “Missing at the border.”
After the Harris trip was announced, Trump, who is weighing another run for the presidency in 2024, said in a statement, “After months of ignoring the crisis at the Southern Border, it is great that we got Kamala Harris to finally go and see the tremendous destruction and death that they’ve created—a direct result of Biden ending my very tough but fair border policies.”
Trump said that if he and Texas Governor Greg Abbott were not planning to visit the border themselves next week, “she would have never gone!”