Finally. Months after being given an amorphous role in ending the border crisis, Vice President Kamala Harris is going to visit the border.
If only she were going to the part of the border where the border crisis is.
Politico’s Daniel Lippman reported Wednesday that Harris was making the trip to El Paso, Texas “amid an unrelenting chorus of criticism from Republicans over her failure to visit there.” Given the tone, one is halfway surprised Lippman didn’t say Republicans were “pouncing” on the fact that Harris hasn’t visited the border as part of their “unrelenting chorus of criticism,” but I digress.
“Earlier this year, the President asked the Vice President to oversee our diplomatic efforts to address the root causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras,” Harris spokeswoman Symone Sanders in a statement, according to Politico.
“As a part of this ongoing work, the Vice President traveled to Guatemala and Mexico earlier this month and will travel to El Paso on Friday.”
This sounds perfectly reasonable — except for where Harris picked to visit. As Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz noted, she’s not even close to where the problem is.
“Where the crisis is most acute is in the Rio Grande Valley, which is 800 miles away from El Paso,” Cruz told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“To put that in perspective, Chicago, Illinois, is closer to Washington than McAllen is to El Paso.”
He made similar remarks in an appearance on Fox News.
He noted that “El Paso is on the western tip of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley is almost on the southern tip of Texas.”
Texas’ other senator, Republican John Cornyn, agreed.
“My recommendation is that she go to the, to ground zero, which is the Rio Grande Valley. El Paso is a much different situation than the Valley. This Valley is really at the eye of the storm,” Cornyn said, according to the Star-Telegram.
Cornyn added that “it’s a good start but obviously the purpose is not for a photo op. It’s to actually listen and learn from the people who live there and work there.”
So far in the 2020-21 fiscal year (which ends in October), Customs and Border Protection data show there have been fewer than half the land encounters in the El Paso Sector — which primarily covers the land border in New Mexico — as there have been in the Rio Grande Valley Sector.
Between October 2020 and May 2021, 271,927 encounters were recorded in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, compared with 113,824 in the El Paso Sector.
In May — a month that saw the most border encounters in two decades — the Rio Grande saw 50,793 encounters, with only 22,219 in the El Paso region.
This line of criticism mightn’t have got any traction if this visit were coming earlier in the crisis — or if Harris and the White House had managed the issue better.
After visiting Mexico and Guatemala earlier this month, Harris sat down for an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt where she seemed beyond unprepared for a question regarding when she would visit the southern border.
“At some point, you know — we are going to the border. We’ve been to the border,” Harris said.
“You haven’t been to the border,” Holt replied.
“And I haven’t been to Europe,” Harris said, laughing. “And I mean, I don’t understand the point that you’re making. I’m not discounting the importance of the border.”
Cringe. Kamala Harris doesn’t get it.
Holt: “Do you have any plans to visit the border?”
Harris: “We’ve been to the border. We’ve been the border.”
Holt: “YOU haven’t been to the border.”
Harris: “…..and I haven’t been to Europe. I don’t understand the point you’re making.” pic.twitter.com/fFXMf8X0b6
— Andrew Clark (@AndrewHClark) June 8, 2021
After the interview, the White House tried to reframe criticism of Harris’ answer as the veep bravely standing up to Republican criticism.
“At some point, [Harris] may go to the border. I don’t have any trips to preview for you, or predict — or a timeline for that,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki during a June 8 news conference.
“I will say we’re not taking advice from former President Trump or most of the Republicans who are criticizing us on this, given they were all sitting there while we created this problem we walked into — both at the border — and with the movement of migration that has been growing over the last year,” she added.
“So, we’re not taking out guidance and advice from them, but if it is constructive and it moves the ball forward for [Harris] to visit the border, she certainly might do that.”
Naturally, then, Harris announced her visit to the border a little over a week after former President Donald Trump announced he’d be visiting the border with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on June 30 — and that she’d be visiting just in time to beat Trump to the border by five days! Totally a coincidence.
Even assuming it was a coincidence, it’s one that handed Trump and Republicans a victory:
TRUMP: “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.” pic.twitter.com/6xrpbAj40T
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) June 23, 2021
“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 Wednesday.
“Harris and Biden were given the strongest Border in American history. And now, it is by far the worst in American history.
“If Governor Abbott and I weren’t going there next week, she would have never gone!”
So, to recap: Vice President Harris is tasked in March with a vague mission to help alleviate the border crisis via diplomatic means. She doesn’t seem particularly interested in visiting the border for the first two months in that role, despite that “unrelenting chorus of criticism” from those pesky Republicans.
In an interview, she says she’s been to the border. The interviewer tells her she hasn’t been to the border. She says she hasn’t been to Europe, either.
Jen Psaki says Republicans aren’t going to pressure the VP into visiting the border (or, presumably, Europe).
Former President Trump announces he’ll be visiting the border on June 30. Harris subsequently announces she’ll be visiting on June 25 — but not the part of the border where the crisis is.
Then it takes Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to point out just how far she’s going to be from the real action.
Heckuva’ job, Kamala.
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