White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Vice President Kamala Harris had chosen to visit El Paso in the southern border region because it was the place where Trump-era immigration policies were “so problematic.”
“It was the place where the former president … put in place some of his immigration policies that we felt were so problematic,” she told reporters Friday.
“It is here in El Paso that the previous administration's child separation policy was unveiled. And so we've seen the disastrous effects of that right here in this region,” the vice president said in her own briefing after her visit. “It is here in El Paso that the return to Mexico policy from the previous administration was implemented. We have seen the disaster that resulted from that here in El Paso.”
But most illegal border crossers caught in El Paso are from Mexico, not Central America. The Rio Grande Valley, which is much closer to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, is typically where migrants from those regions arrive. Critics said that is where Harris should have visited to understand the crisis.
“The border is not all the same. El Paso has definitely been negatively effected by the Biden-Harris open border policies,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, wrote on Twitter. “But why would she deliberately avoid that part of the border where she would be likely to learn the most about the consequences of Biden-Harris immigration policy failures and how to correct them?”
Harris praised the Department of Homeland Security for its work to process people who arrive at the southern border.
“We are seeing here in El Paso unaccompanied minors … who are filled with optimism, but they are without their family. They're being processed through the system. But it really does speak to also the humanitarian nature of the work that must be done,” Harris said.
Trump boasted in 2019 that his border wall had drastically cut crime rates in El Paso.
Harris visited a processing center and border patrol facility in El Paso before receiving an “operational briefing” on the facility’s latest technologies. The vice president came under intense criticism for going 93 days between her appointment to lead the migration crisis and her visit to the border.
The White House stressed that Harris’ job was to address “root causes,” and the vice president visited Mexico and Guatemala before heading to El Paso. Two weeks ago in Guatemala, the vice president dismissed a trip to the border as a “grand gesture.” Prior to that, she had seemed open to the idea of visiting.
“I said back in March I was going to come to the border, so this is not a new plan,” Harris told reporters after landing in Texas. “Coming to the border … is about looking at the effects of what we have seen happening in Central America.”
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