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Kamala Harris grilled on why she hasn’t visited US border with Mexico

US Vice President Kamala Harris was grilled on her failure to visit the country’s southern border. Her answer only led to more criticism.

US Vice President Kamala Harris has been grilled on her failure to visit the country’s southern border with Mexico, despite being placed in charge of immigration policy.

Today Ms Harris was in Mexico for the second stop on her first overseas tour as Vice President, having previously visited Guatemala. The purpose of the trip was to discuss the factors leading undocumented migrants to travel north to the United States.

President Joe Biden put Ms Harris in charge of the issue back in March, calling her the “most qualified person” to lead a dialogue between the US and Central American nations.

Immigration had quickly become a problem for the Biden administration due to a surge in unaccompanied minors arriving at the border, which caused overcrowding in the facilities holding them.

RELATED: Biden under pressure over surge at the border

Republicans, along with many US media outlets, have described the situation at the border as a “crisis”. Politicians on both sides, though primarily Republicans, have criticised Ms Harris for not visiting the border to see what is happening first-hand.

That criticism came up during an interview the Vice President gave to NBC host Lester Holt, which aired today.

“The question that has come up – and you heard it here, and you’ll hear it again I’m sure – is why not visit the border? Why not see what Americans are seeing in this crisis?” Holt asked.

“Well, we are going to the border,” Ms Harris said.

“We have to deal with what’s happening at the border, there’s no question about that. That’s not a debatable point. But we have to understand that there’s a reason people are arriving at our border, and ask what is that reason? And then identify the problem so we can fix it.”

The conversation moved on to other subjects for several minutes before Holt returned to the border issue.

“Just to quickly put a button (on it), do you have any plans to visit the border?” he pressed.

“At some point,” Ms Harris replied, throwing up her hands.

“We are going to the border. We’ve been to the border. So this whole thing about the border – we’ve been to the border. We’ve been to the border.”

You haven’t been to the border,” Holt said.

“And I haven’t been to Europe,” she responded, laughing.

“I mean I don’t understand the point that you’re making. I’m not discounting the importance of the border.”

“Well I mention it because I know, certainly, Republicans have come after you on this. But Democratic Congressman (Henry) Cuellar has a border district. (He’s) said to you and the President, ‘Come, you need to see this,’” Holt explained.

Mr Cuellar, who represents a congressional district in Texas, has indeed urged Mr Biden and Ms Harris to visit the border.

“Listen, I care about what’s happening at the border,” Ms Harris told Holt.

“I’m in Guatemala because my focus is on dealing with the root causes of migration. There may be some who think that is not important, but it is my firm belief that if we care about what is happening at the border, we’d better care about the root causes and address them.

“And so that’s what I’m doing.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the testy exchange during today’s media briefing.

“When the Vice President is asked if she has plans to visit the border, she says we’ve been to the border, even though she has not as Vice President,” said Fox News reporter Peter Doocy.

“Well, as the Vice President, she does speak for the actions of the people in the administration,” Ms Psaki said, though she stressed that Ms Harris’s “assignment” had been to speak with the Central American leaders.

“Did somebody decide here that it would not be helpful for her to go to the border and talk to people who just migrated here?” Doocy pressed.

“I think that at some point, she may go to the border. I don’t have any trips to preview for you, or predict, or a timeline for that,” the press secretary said.

“I will say, we’re not taking advice from former president (Donald) Trump or most of the Republicans who are criticising us on this, given they were all sitting there while (they) created this problem we walked into.”

Speaking of that “advice” coming from Republicans, here are a few examples.

But they aren’t the only ones slamming the administration’s policies.

Ms Harris has also copped criticism from some Democrats over remarks she made in Guatemala yesterday, telling migrants not to come to the border.

“I want to be clear to folks in the region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border. Do not come. Do not come,” she said.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is one of the more high profile progressives in Congress, called Ms Harris’s comments “disappointing”.

“First, seeking asylum at any US border is a 100 per cent legal method of arrival,” Ms Ocasio-Cortez argued.

“Second, the US spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilisation in Latin America. We can’t help set someone’s house on fire and then blame them for fleeing.

“It would be helpful if the US would finally acknowledge its contributions to destabilisation and regime change in the region. Doing so can help us change US foreign policy, trade policy, climate policy and border policy to address causes of mass displacement and migration.”

Ms Psaki was also asked about this critique from the left during today’s briefing.

“What the Vice President was simply conveying is that there’s more work to be done, that we don’t have these systems in place yet, it’s still a dangerous journey,” Ms Psaki said.

“We need more time to get the work done, to ensure that asylum processing is where it should be.”

Ms Harris’s first overseas trip will be followed by Mr Biden’s. The President is travelling to the United Kingdom for the G7 summit later this week, and will also meet with the leaders of NATO and the European Union.

His schedule will conclude with a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.

In a Washington Post op-ed over the weekend, Mr Biden said the trip was about “rallying the world’s democracies”.

“In this moment of global uncertainty, as the world still grapples with a once-in-a-century pandemic, this trip is about realising our renewed commitment to our allies and partners, and demonstrating the capacity of democracies to both meet the challenges and deter the threats of this new age,” he wrote.

“We will be stronger and more capable when we are flanked by nations that share our values and our vision for the future. By other democracies.

“That’s the agenda I will advance at every stop.”

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