WASHINGTON (AP) – Vice President Kamala Harris plans a trip to Mexico and Guatemala as she leads the White House’s diplomatic efforts to tackle the migration challenge at the U.S. southern border.
Harris told reporters Wednesday that she was “looking forward to traveling, hopefully as my first trip, to the Northern Triangle,” with stops in Mexico and Guatemala planned. She said she would go as soon as possible, depending on restrictions put in place for the pandemic.
But when asked if she would visit the border, Harris suggested she had no plans to do so, noting that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had been tasked by the president with dealing with the increase in migration there, while she was focused on dealing with the root causes of migration to the U.S.
It’s a decision that’s certain to fuel criticism from Republicans that the Biden administration isn’t doing enough to address the large increase in migration at the border. Harris and President Joe Biden both have been hammered by GOP lawmakers for not visiting the border, even as jarring photos of minors held in overcrowded detention centers drew fresh attention to the issue.
Biden has dispatched a number of top aides to evaluate the situation at the border instead.
Indeed, Republican lawmakers returning from a border trip blamed the Biden administration for the problems, arguing for a return to Trump-era policies. They said the president and vice president need to go to the border to see firsthand the migrant surge.
“He can stop this today,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the GOP whip. “Vice President Harris needs to go down to the border and see this for herself.” The increase in migration to the U.S. has become one of Biden’s biggest challenges in the early months of his administration. In March, a record number of unaccompanied children attempted to cross the border, and the Border Patrol saw its largest number of encounters overall with migrants on the southern border – just under 170,000 – in two decades.