Kamala Harris is visiting the US-Mexican border in El Paso, Texas on Friday, touring a migrant processing center after months of attacks by Republicans over her alleged failure to show up. Sputnik has put together some quick facts to know about the trip:
- The visit comes just over three months after President Joe Biden tapped Harris to tackle the growing migration crisis on 24 March.
- A group of Republican lawmakers led by Texas Senator Ted Cruz beat Harris to the border by almost three months, touring the frontier and detention centers, and posting politically damaging videos of adults and minors being held in cramped facilities where sanitary and epidemiological rules were not being followed.
How far is Joe Biden going to stop the American people from seeing inside the Donna CBP facility?— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 28, 2021
Biden sent a political operative from DC to block our cameras and even threatened another senator to obstruct legitimate congressional oversight. pic.twitter.com/vHT2U7Nh1z
- Former President Donald Trump was invited to visit the border by Texas Governor Gregg Abbott last week, with the trip set to take place 30 June. On Thursday, Trump attacked Harris and claimed that she would have “never gone” to the border if not for his upcoming trip.
- Harris’s schedule includes a walking tour of the El Paso Central Processing Center operated by Customs and Border Patrol. There, she is expected to receive an “operational briefing” from agents. After that, she is set to speak to leaders of NGOs providing shelter and legal assistance to migrants. The end of the trip is expected to include a speech to assembled press and a possible question and answer session.
- Along with Harris, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin and Democratic Representative Veronica Escobar of Texas are coming along on the trip.
- Former acting director of US Customs and Immigration Enforcement Tom Homan suggests that Harris’s trip to visit El Paso instead of the much harder hit Rio Grande Valley migration “epicenter’ is aimed at shielding her from seeing the worst of the crisis. “Instead of going there and talking to the men and women dealing with that crisis and taking care of thousands of unaccompanied children, she picks El Paso because she doesn’t want to see the devastation that her administration’s policies have caused,” Homan told Fox News.
- The White House has promised that Friday’s trip would help “build on” Harris’s recent diplomatic work with Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, including telephone conversations with leaders and face-to-face visits to discuss the problem of illegal immigration and its “root causes.” A Harris spokesperson has said that the El Paso visit would help “shed a spotlight” on what the Biden administration has been doing to “build a fair, humane and orderly immigration system” and to “fix” issues inherited from its predecessor.
- Progressive Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has criticized Harris over her message in Guatemala earlier this month urging that country’s people not to come to America, saying that the US “has spent decades contributing to regime change and destabilization in Latin America,” and that migrants were only trying to escape problems caused in part by the US’s own policies.
- The border crisis has caused a 249 percent surge in attempts to illegally enter the United States, including a 900 percent increase in the detention of illegal immigrants with criminal records. According to the latest CBP figures, agents have encountered over 633,000 people trying to get into the US between February and May, with these figures already eclipsing the CBP’s encounters with would-be immigrants for the whole of 2020.
- In his first few weeks in office, Biden issued nearly a dozen significant executive orders, instruments and memorandum to reverse his predecessor’s hardline stance on immigration. These included 1) an order revoking the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the census 2) an order to preserve and fortify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, which provides safeguards from deportation for children of illegals 3) a reversal of the Trump travel ban 4) a halt in the construction of the Trump border wall, 5) an end to “harsh and extreme immigration enforcement” 6) the cancellation of the ‘Remain in Mexico’ programme offering financial incentives to migrants to stop them from coming to the US 7) “restoring” the US asylum system 8) rolling back a wealth test for would-be legal immigrants and 8) an order to rebuild the US refugee resettlement programme.
Regional leaders including Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei have blamed Biden’s policies for the crisis, with Giammattei suggesting that the administration’s “confusing” messages of perceived compassion prompted local human smugglers to begin offering to take people’s children to the United States. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, meanwhile, has similarly said that “expectations” created by Biden that the US would lead to “better treatment of migrants” caused thousands to flood to the frontier thinking that crossing would be easier and safer.