“Let’s take a picture!” she said excitedly to the press gathered under the wing of the plane on Friday in the heat of nearly 100 degrees. As for additional questions? Those to which she did not respond, instead of walking away amid the cries of “Mrs. Vice President.”
At each of their three stops in El Paso, Harris and his team seemed intent on diligently observing the movements of an official border visit as they sought to create as little noise as possible.
The trip also gave Harris the opportunity to draw a contrast between the policies of the current administration and those of the Trump administration, which boasted of creating “inhumane conditions” at the border. He also noted that the Trump administration’s family separation policy was piloted for the first time in El Paso.
Friday’s visit also avoided creating images linking Harris to the government’s difficulties in processing a wave of migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months.
Unlike Vice President Mike Pence’s July 2019 border visit, which saw him appear alongside hundreds of migrants in a crowded detention center in McAllen, Texas, Harris did not appear on camera in a detention center or next to any migrants. He also did not visit the nearby border wall.
Instead, he met behind closed doors with five girls, ages 9 to 16, from Central America, who he said were “full of hope” despite their circumstances.
Harris spokeswoman Symone Sanders did not respond when asked why Harris did not visit the facility, which is just 2 miles from El Paso airport, but said the administration s ‘is taking reports of unsafe conditions’ extremely seriously’. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, whose department oversees the facility for migrants, is scheduled to visit on Monday.
Harris and his team were wary of making his trip Friday as a result of media pressure and criticism from Republicans because he had not yet visited the border, insisting instead that he had always planned to come after a trip to the U.S. ‘Central America.
“It was always the plan to come here,” Harris told reporters when he arrived Friday.
Although he eventually reached the border, he still faced criticism from Republicans and Conservative Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas for not visiting the Rio Grande Valley, which has been the epicenter of the increase in migrants from Texas. ‘this year.
Harris also took care to repeatedly raise his trip to the border as part of his mission to address the root causes of migration, amid attempts by Republicans to call it the “border tsar” of the Biden administration.
“This has been a journey that is also related to the very obvious point: if you want to deal with a problem, you can’t just deal with the symptom of the problem,” he said. “You have to find out what made it happen.”
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