On Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris
traveled to the southern U.S. border
in El Paso
, where she reiterated that her primary goal as immigration
czar is to address the root causes of Central American migrants
in the United States
in the first place.
Her trip included a tour of an El Paso migrant processing center, a stop at a US Customs and Border Protection facility, and a conversation with five Central American young girls.
“We are here today to address and discuss what has brought people
to the US border, and to continue to address the root causes that cause people to leave and often flee their home country,” Harris told reporters.
Though she has visited Guatemala
on immigration-related trips since President Joe Biden
appointed her to handle the administration's immigration policies in March, Republican
critics have been bugging her to visit the border and accused her of being unfit for the role.
On Friday, Harris addressed some of the criticism.
“An important aspect of this visit is leading this visit after the work
that we did in Guatemala and Mexico, because as I’ve long said, I said back in March that I was going to come to the border, so this is not a new plan,” she said when asked why she was making the visit now.
“The reality is that we have to deal
with both the causes and the effects,” she continued, “so being in Guatemala, being in Mexico, talking with Mexico as a partner on the issue was about addressing the causes, and then coming to the border... is about looking at the effects of what we have seen happening in Central America.”
Harris' visit comes as the Biden administration
deals with a surge in the number of migrants arriving at the border seeking asylum from Guatemala, El Salvador
, and Honduras
— all countries where the US has played a role in exacerbating inequality
. According to Customs and Border Protection, more than 180,000 migrants arrived in May, with more than 112,000 being immediately deported.
“As you have all heard me say many times, I strongly believe that most people do not want to leave home,” Harris said at the end of her visit, adding that migrants do so because they cannot provide “basic necessities” for their families in their home countries.
“That belief has been reinforced throughout our day today,” she said, “the stories that I heard, the interactions that we had today, reinforced the nature
of those lack of economic opportunities, which are frequently violence, corruption, and food
insecurity, as well as basic needs not being met, including the fear of cartels and gangs.”
As more migrants have arrived at the southern border, the Biden administration has maintained a policy instituted by former President Donald Trump
, which denies asylum on the grounds of protecting public health
during the COVID-19 pandemic
. Earlier this month, Harris urged migrants not to attempt to enter the United States at this time.
The vice president stated on Friday that much work remains to be done in order to “build a fair, functional, and humane immigration system,” adding that Biden’s administration “inherited a difficult situation” as a result of Trump’s policy of separating migrant children
from their parents.