WASHINGTON – Vice President Kamala Harris will be visiting the U.S.-Mexico border Friday, following months of pressure from Capitol Hill to visit the region, according to the White House.
Harris, who was tasked with dealing with the root causes of migration from Central America, will be visiting El Paso, Texas, alongside Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Harris’ visit is “part of the coordinated effort between her office, her work, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, to continue to address the root causes and work in coordination to get the situation under control.”
The visit will come days before former President Donald Trump also heads to the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30. Earlier this month, Trump said he accepted an invitation from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to visit the border. Abbott, a Republican, recently announced that Texas will build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and put forward a $250 million down payment for the project.
Harris over the past several months has been criticized by Republicans and some Democrats for not visiting the border. Harris has said that she was tasked with dealing with the root causes of migration, rather than the situation at the border, which she said Mayorkas was tasked with.
Moments after Harris' trip was announced, Trump took credit for the vice president’s visit to the border and criticized the administration for ending several of his hardline immigration policies.
“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 in a statement.
The Biden administration has ended the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocol, a policy that forced asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico as they await their court hearings, and has halted construction on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. However, the Biden administration continues have the Title 42 policy in place, which started under Trump and has resulted in the majority of migrants coming to the United States to be turned away.
Psaki denied that Harris’ trip was a political decision determined by the former president visiting the border, and said that the administration can only guess what Trump will say during his visit.
Psaki said the White House doesn't believe that Harris' trip to the border will "prevent or change what the former president of the United States says when he goes to the border in a couple of days."
Last week, a Texas Democratic congressman who represents a part of the border sent a letter to Harris urging her to see firsthand the strain migration is putting on South Texas resources.
"I believe it is critical that you meet with local stakeholders and residents, consider their concerns, and use their lived experiences to implement more effective policies," Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said in a June 15 letter to the vice president. "The situation on the border will only worsen, as more migrants are expected to arrive. The Administration needs to take a proactive approach to create a sustainable system of humanitarian aid and relieve everyday Americans of that responsibility."
Earlier this month, Harris made her first foreign trip to Guatemala and Mexico, where she met with Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei and Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The trip was part of her focus on addressing the root causes of why migrants from Central America are heading to the U.S.-Mexico border.
During her trip, Harris received criticism for telling migrants “do not come” to the United States during a speech in Guatemala. Throughout that trip, Harris was repeatedly asked about whether she will visit the U.S.-Mexico border. Harris received criticism after she said “I haven't been to Europe” either when responding to why she hadn’t been to the border yet.
Mayorkas has made several visits to the U.S.-Mexico border. The White House has also previously said that President Joe Biden gets regular updates as to what is happening at the border.
Over the past several months, there has been an increase of migrants coming to the U.S.-Mexico border. While the majority of the migrants are being turned away under Title 42 — a policy that allows Customs and Border Protection to expel undocumented migrants to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in holding facilities — the Biden administration is accepting children and some families. The Biden administration had been heavily criticized for overcrowding in border patrol facilities and for children being kept in CBP custody longer than 72 hours.
The Biden administration has since set up at least a dozen emergency influx facilities that are run by Health and Human Services to house unaccompanied minors while sponsors or family members are vetted. Since then, the majority of children are now in HHS custody. In addition, the average time that children are in CBP custody has gone down to 24 hours.
Contributing: John Moritz
Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kamala Harris going to US-Mexico border as she addresses migration