After Criticism Over Her Border Absence, Harris Will Visit El Paso

His Friday visit was attended by former President Donald J. Trump’s visit to the border with House Republicans and the governor of Texas, who has pledged to dismantle the wall.

WASHINGTON – Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to the United States-Mexico border on Friday, a trip that comes after weeks of criticism from Republicans who attacked her for not visiting, despite being in charge of addressing the root causes of migration. did.

Ms Harris was criticized this month after traveling to Mexico City and Guatemala, when NBC’s Lester Holt asked her why she had not gone to the border. She responded by calling the visit a “grand gesture” and that she had not yet been to Europe, either – answers that confused her critics and members of her own administration.

“She said in the same interview that she would be ready to go to the border at an appropriate time,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday when questioned about Harris’s visit. “We made an assessment within our government about when it was an appropriate time for him to go to the border.”

Administration officials did not give a clear answer as to why this week was considered an appropriate time. Ms Harris has held the role since March, when President Biden tapped her to lead an effort to improve conditions in Central America to halt migration to the north. But even during this month’s visit aimed at improving the situation in the region, his absence from the border continued to face questions.

Ms Harris and her colleagues have been on the defensive since then, arguing that she is focused on addressing the poverty and oppression that force vulnerable families to leave their homes. Allies have warned the White House not to succumb to criticism.

“I wouldn’t,” said Jennifer Palmery, a former White House communications director during the Obama administration. “It’s a mistake to think that you’re going to forever silence critics for whatever they want you to take.”

But former President Donald J. Trump’s planned visit to the border next week added to the pressure. Ms. Harris’s visit, which was Politico. previously reported byTrump’s visit to the border with a group of House Republicans and Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who has pledged to dismantle the border wall that has become a symbol of Trump’s restrictive immigration agenda .

Mr Trump wasted no time accusing Ms Harris of planning a trip to the border because she was also making a plan: “If Governor Abbott and I weren’t going there next week, she never would have gone, Mr Trump said. A statement was issued through her office about five minutes after the formal announcement of Ms Harris’ visit.

(An official in Ms Harris’ office, who spoke on condition of anonymity not to disclose the internal plan, said Mr Trump’s visit had nothing to do with Mrs Harris’ visit.)

On Wednesday, a group of House Republicans said they would join Mr. Abbott and Mr. Trump in their visit, a move intended to put further pressure on the Biden administration, which is calling for Mr. Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration. Struggling to overcome. Policies warning migrants not to travel to the United States. The Biden administration has also been criticized for upholding Title 42, a Trump-era rule that allows the US government to expel migrants, including asylum seekers, for public health reasons.

The number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border has reached a record high under the Biden administration, and officials have struggled to get them out of cramped facilities and care for family members. and an increase in single adult fears – about 121,000 last month – there has been a slight decline in the number of unaccompanied minors and families traveling north across the border, accordingly For US Customs and Border Protection data.

Indiana Representative Jim Banks said in a statement that he and other Republicans would travel to the border with Trump “to explain how we can end this national embarrassment.”

When Ms. Harris travels to El Paso, she will visit a major port of entry and a city that has complicated ties with Mr. Trump. During Mr Trump’s presidency, he called El Paso “one of the most dangerous cities in our country”, ravaging it by immigrants and crime. In 2019, when 22 people were killed at a Walmart and a white suspect warned of a “Hispanic invasion”, Trump was opposed when he visited the families of the victims.

The city is in the district of Representative Veronica Escobar, a Democrat who has prompted US officials to assess the root causes of migration from Central America – a message that Ms Harris has repeatedly said she will do in her role. Ms Escobar is expected to accompany Harris on Friday, but an administrative official familiar with the vice president’s visit said travel plans were still being finalised.

Ms Harris’ visit could also be an opportunity to meet with agents who are responsible for responding to the surge of migrants, and when she dismissed the border visit as a “grand gesture”. National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd said the visit could boost the morale of Border Patrol agents, who have been forced to process thousands of migrants, many of whom are minors alone, on the southwestern border. .

“If she’s going to put politics behind her and she’s going to go out there and find solutions, of course I think it will help,” said Mr Judd, who backed Mr Trump and called on migrants then pleaded to be kept in custody till they get a decision. in their immigration matters. “Now if she’s going to go there, no. But if she’s going to go out there and find a solution, it’s definitely going to help.”

Annie Karnik Contributed reporting.

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