Harris is set to travel to the El Paso, Texas, area, accompanied by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
The vice president, who was tasked by President Joe Biden with overseeing efforts to address the root causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, hasn’t been to the border since taking office. Following criticism that neither she nor the president have visited the area, she shifted her messaging in early June, saying she’d make the trip “at some point.”
The trip will take place several days before former President Donald Trump accompanies Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to the border. White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged to reporters in Washington that the administration was aware of Trump’s pending travel plans.
She said the decision on the timing of the visit was coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security and that both the White House and Harris had offered previously that the vice president could go to the border at an appropriate time.
That time has arrived, Psaki said, because the number of immigrant children in U.S. government custody has declined from levels that saw facilities both on and off the border overcrowded.
Harris will “assess and take a look at the progress that’s been made,” she said. “Is there still more work to do? Absolutely.”
Trump released a statement commenting on Harris’s trip.
“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,” he said. “If Governor Abbott and I weren’t going there next week, she would have never gone!”
After Biden reversed or altered a number of key Trump-era policies upon entering office, the border situation worsened quickly. Droves of young migrants without accompanying adults arrived there and were welcomed despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 6,000 children at one point were in the custody of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which isn’t equipped to care for minors. Transfer times to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) care extended to more than seven days for some children, which is far beyond what federal law allows.
As of June 12, 1,040 kids were in CBP care and over 14,400 were in HHS care.
Border Patrol agents have also seen a surge in adults and families. Illegal border crossings hit 180,034 in May, with 51,000 others avoiding capture. Some Democrats who represent border districts have joined Republicans in criticizing the Biden administration’s handling of the situation.
Administration officials have defended the border policies, claiming they’ve made the immigration system “more humane.”
“We have a strategy, we are executing on our strategy, I have confidence in our strategy,” Mayorkas told members of Congress during a recent hearing.
Republicans in Congress said Harris will see firsthand what the administration’s policies have wrought. Many linked the trip to Trump’s planned visit.
“After three months as border czar, it’s about time VP Harris goes to see first-hand how her policies of open borders and mass amnesty are causing a crisis at our southern border,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) said in a statement.
“No doubt in my mind that Vice President Harris’s long-overdue visit to the U.S.–Mexico border was prompted by President Trump’s decision to visit the border next week,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said.