On tour at the border, Harris bemoans “feuds” over immigration | National and Global

EL PASO, Texas (AP) – Vice President Kamala Harris took advantage of her first trip to the US-Mexico border since taking office on Friday to call for an end to political “rhetoric” and “wrangling” over the immigration, a problem Republicans have faced. eager to arm themselves against it.

Immigration “cannot be reduced to a political issue,” Harris told reporters. “We are talking about children, we are talking about families, we are talking about suffering. And our approach must be thoughtful and effective.”

Harris’ trip came after months of criticism from Republicans and some in his own party over his and President Joe Biden’s absence from the border at a time when immigration officials registered record numbers encounters with migrants attempting to cross into the United States.

Her half-day stop – during which she visited a customs and border protection processing center and met migrant children there, visited a reception center at the border and organized a table round with local service providers – is unlikely to prevent GOP efforts to use immigration as a political club against the administration.

Harris defended both the timing of his visit and El Paso’s choice for the stop. Some critics had said the location was too far from the epicenter of the border crossings, putting pressure on federal resources. She told reporters after landing in El Paso that she said in March that she would come to the border and that it was “not a new plan”.

And she said the choice of El Paso was meant to underscore the shift to a more humane approach to immigration policy by the Biden administration after former President Donald Trump’s hardline stance.

“It was here in El Paso that the previous administration’s child separation policy was unveiled,” she said. She also noted Trump’s “stay in Mexico” policy, which required asylum seekers to wait across the border for their claims to be reviewed.

“We saw the resulting disaster here in El Paso,” she said.

Harris visited the region with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Democratic Representative from Texas Veronica Escobar and Democratic Senator from Illinois Dick Durbin, a leading Democratic voice on immigration reform. Both Mayorkas and Escobar said they invited Harris specifically to the region, and Mayorkas was quick to point out that border security was in his wallet, not the vice president’s.

But Republicans blamed Harris for a trip they called little more than a photoshoot. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a conservative Republican and the administration’s top immigration critic, accused Biden’s policies of “opening the floodgates to human smugglers and drug cartels.”

While Cruz said he was glad Harris visited, “if the Vice President has come to Texas without a concrete plan to secure our border and is unwilling to reverse her administration’s failed immigration policies which caused the crisis, so his visit is nothing short of a glorified photo op.

Trump said in an interview with the conservative Newsmax on Friday that “I think she should go to the real part of the border, not the part of the border that is rarely violated.”

Harris has suffered the brunt of Republican attacks on immigration since Biden tasked her with leading the administration’s efforts to address the root causes of migration to the United States from countries like the United States. Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala. She stressed that she is focusing on improving the conditions of residents of those countries through economic and humanitarian aid, to encourage them to stay at home rather than travel to the United States.

Republicans have attempted to portray the administration as indifferent to border security, seeking to rekindle a powerful political weapon against Democrats for the 2022 midterm election. Trump plans to visit the region less than a week after Harris , and he’s sure to use his trip to continue driving the GOP narrative.

Other administration officials made several visits to the border, but the absence of Biden and Harris had left some Democrats concerned that damage had already been done. There are fears that the Biden administration has ceded the border security debate to Republicans.

“The administration gives the impression that Democrats are weak,” Texas Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’ve heard from Democrats and Republicans in my area what the hell is going on with this administration? “

Cuellar’s district stretches south of San Antonio to the US-Mexico border, and last year he was re-elected by the thinnest margin of his nearly two-decade career. While he says he is not worried about his own re-election, he adds: “I am worried about my colleagues.

Biden’s first months in office saw record numbers of migrants attempting to cross the border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection recorded more than 180,000 encounters at the Mexican border in May, the highest number since March 2000. The numbers were amplified by a ban on seeking asylum linked to the coronavirus pandemic, which encouraged repeated attempts to cross as getting caught was not consequences.

Republicans have jumped at those numbers to attack Biden and Harris as weak on border security. Administration officials, including Harris, deny the accusation. Harris repeatedly sent a message to migrants during his recent visit to Guatemala: “Don’t come.

But the comments drew fire from some progressives, including New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who called the post “disappointing.”

It was an incident that underscored the political stalemate for Harris, tackling an intractable problem that frustrated past administrations and was used by both sides to sow discord and participation during the election campaign. If Biden chooses not to run for a second term, Harris will be seen as the primary candidate to replace him, and the immigration issue could become either a chance to showcase his accomplishments or an albatross.

In a meeting with faith-based organizations, as well as with shelters and legal service providers, Harris said she and Biden “inherited a difficult situation.”

But she maintained that “in five months we have made progress … there is still work to be done, but we have made progress.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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