Vice President Kamala Harris while in Guatemala on Monday dismissed calls for her to visit the U.S. southern border as calls for “grand gestures” despite Harris making that very visit in 2018 when she was a U.S. senator to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
Harris, who was tapped by President Joe Biden more than two months ago to oversee the border crisis, has not visited the scene of the crisis while streams of congressional delegations have made the trip and have emphasized witnessing inhumane conditions in federal border facilities amid uncontrollable surges of illegal migration.
Republicans, as well as some Democrats, have contended that Harris, too, should experience the realities of the border crisis firsthand, but the vice president instead planned a two-day visit to Guatemala and Mexico for her first trip as Biden’s border point person.
“There have been questions about why you and President Biden have yet to visit the border, the U.S. southern border, and I’m wondering if you could answer some of those,” a reporter asked Harris during a press conference Monday with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei. “Republicans have charged that you are not taking the situation there seriously so how do you respond to that criticism and when will that visit come?”
Harris responded by suggesting Republicans were looking for “grand gestures” by calling for her to visit the U.S. border, and she did not provide a date for when she would make the visit.
“On the issue of Republicans’ political attacks or criticism,” Harris started, adding as she smiled, “or even concerns, the reason I am here in Guatemala as my first trip as vice president of the United States is because this is one of our highest priorities.”
She continued, “And I came here to be here on the ground to speak with the leader of this nation around what we can do in a way that is significant, is tangible, and has real results, and I will continue to be focused on that kind of work as opposed to grand gestures.”
Harris’s position contrasts with her actions in 2018, when she visited the San Diego-Mexico border to protest former President Donald Trump’s zero tolerance policy, with which the former president began enforcing policies already in existence against migrants who attempted to cross the border illegally.
— Mark Bednar (@MarkBednar) June 7, 2021
The vice president’s comments come as border officials encounter illegal migrants in numbers far outpacing those that occurred under the Trump administration.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported encountering more than 101,000 illegal migrants in February, more than 173,000 in March, and more than 178,000 in April. Those monthly totals represent a 175 percent increase, a 403 percent increase, and a 944 percent increase over last year’s monthly totals, respectively.
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