In a press conference following her visit, Harris reiterated the philosophy that is guiding her response to the border crisis.
The vice president contended, “As you all have heard me say many times, I strongly believe that most people don’t want to leave home, and when they do it is because either they are fleeing some harm or because to stay means that they cannot provide for the basic necessities of their family. That belief has been reinforced throughout our day today.”
Though the Biden administration has emphasized the most heartwrenching cases of illegal immigration — the innocent child or family seeking a better quality of life or shelter from persecution — not all are fully truthful about their motives for immigrating to the U.S. Aside from illegitimate requests for asylum, criminal syndicates and drug traffickers are also taking advantage of the inability of border patrol officials to get a handle on illegal crossings, a fact that Biden’s director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has confirmed.
Harris also commended U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.
“I commend all of them for the success that they have seen thus far. I’d call it progress. We’re not exactly where we want to be yet but we have seen extreme progress over these last few months because of his dedication and his efforts,” Harris said.
Mayorkas said he recommended to the vice president a trip to El Paso in part because it is among the busiest sections of the border and reflects the “many diverse elements of our mission.” The secretary also repeated his position that the Trump administration “dismantled” the asylum system.
“I am grateful to the vice president for leading the effort to tackle the root causes of migration, her focus on what is happening in the Northern Triangle countries of origin. I am hopeful Congress will pass immigration reform to fix a system that everyone recognizes is broken,” Mayorkas said.
Harris’ political opponents characterized the trip as a media stunt. In an email to supporters last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pointed out that Harris announced her trip after Trump announced his border visit.
“It is not surprising that she decided to go to El Paso tomorrow, when ground zero for illegal border crossings right now is in Del Rio and the Rio Grande Valley,” Patrick wrote. “The Vice President’s team clearly wanted to avoid a shot of her at the border with illegals streaming across in the background.”
As recently as June 8, Harris had not nailed down plans for a border visit, and resisted the idea that she was ignoring the region. Mark Morgan, a former acting commissioner for CBP, criticized Harris for visiting El Paso rather than the Rio Grande Valley and called it “nothing more than a political stunt.”
“Since being appointed to fix Biden’s border crisis, Vice President Harris has done everything she possibly can to distance herself from the crisis, hiding behind terms like ‘root causes’ to escape scrutiny and criticism for her boss’ open-borders agenda,” Morgan said in a press release published by the Heritage Foundation, where he is currently a visiting fellow.
“It’s sad that it took former President Donald Trump’s announcing a visit to the border himself — presenting the Biden administration with an optics nightmare — to finally force Harris to visit the border.”
Prior to the vice president’s trip, Gov. Greg Abbott also derided Harris’ choice to visit El Paso rather than the Del Rio area. Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX-23), whose district includes most of Texas’ southern border with Mexico, also called the visit “three months overdue.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said in a press release that Harris was visiting a part of the border that is “800 miles from the epicenter of the crisis.”
“Communities like El Paso are struggling because of the damage the Biden-Harris administration has caused by opening the floodgates to human smugglers and drug cartels,” Cruz said. “But, if the Vice President came to Texas without a concrete plan to secure our border and is unwilling to reverse her administration’s failed immigration policies that caused the crisis, then her visit is nothing short of a glorified photo-op.”