Vice President Kamala Harris is finally going to make a visit to the border this Friday, though the details of the trip are still a bit vague:
Harris, who was tasked by President Joe Biden to lead diplomatic efforts to stem the flow of migrants arriving on the southern border, will make a stop in El Paso, Texas on Friday, according to sources familiar with the trip. She is expected to be accompanied by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
A spokesperson for Harris declined to comment. A DHS spokesperson had no comment.
The fact that it has taken this long is inexplicable apart from the obvious desire of the Biden administration to avoid being hurt by the politics of the border crisis. Going to the border suggests they have run out of excuses to avoid doing so even as the number of border encounters this fiscal year has already passed the total for all of 2019 with several months yet to go. But to really examine this ongoing failure in more detail we need to go back and, as Harris herself might say, examine the root causes.
President Biden gave VP Harris the job of leading the administration’s response to the “migration challenge” back in March. Her assignment wasn’t to manage the Border Patrol but to try to get countries in Central America to take a tougher line on migration. The rationale for all of this was the idea that America could help alleviate the root causes of migration and thereby bring the numbers under control. That’s an idea whose efficacy is dubious at best. Harris herself would later tell NBC’s Lester Holt “We’re not going to see a quick fix.” But at least the focus on root causes gave the administration something to talk about, a kind of busy-work as the monthly tally of asylum seekers and unaccompanied children continued to rise.
Jump forward a few months and VP Harris finally made her big trip to Guatemala this month to press the country to do more to limit migration. That trip was widely considered a bust and not just by Republicans. Guatemala’s president Alejandro Giammattei made it clear that he believed the Biden administration was at least partly responsible for the surge of migrants saying, “We asked the United States government to send more of a clear message to prevent more people from leaving.”
Harris’ own message to would-be migrants in Guatemala (“Do not come. Do not come.”) was clear but was considered too harsh by many progressives here at home, including AOC who called it “disappointing to see.”
And when it came to delivering a message to the media, Harris’ trip turned into a disaster. When asked by NBC’s Lester Holt when she would visit the border, she offered a non-sequitur about going to Europe. She also got a bit snippy when asked the same question during an interview with Univision. Reviewing her overall performance on the trip, CNN’s Abby Phillips called it “cringeworthy.”
CNN’s Abby Phillip on Kamala Harris’ first foreign trip: “Cringeworthy,” Harris allies are “wondering what is going on?” pic.twitter.com/vkfotrzN0r
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) June 13, 2021
So having struck out on efforts to distance the VP from the central issue, which is the daily crisis at the southern border, the Biden administration is finally giving in. No doubt this will be a tightly controlled affair which attempts to limit Harris’ ability to get caught off guard by any more obvious questions. Hopefully the media will press her about the Biden administration’s culpability in the crisis. They could also ask about the conditions at HHS facilities for the thousands of unaccompanied children the administration has decided to let into the country. As we’ve already learned, it doesn’t take much of a follow-up question to knock VP Harris off her scripted remarks.
Finally, the decision to make this trip now might be a harbinger of things to come. The end of June is only one week away and border encounter numbers for the month are usually available a few days after that. But the administration is no doubt getting daily updates about the figures and has a good idea how things are shaping up. I’m just speculating but I wonder if the numbers aren’t looking so good and the administration has decided they don’t want to be facing another round of questions about when Harris will visit the border once they are released. Again, it’s speculation but it would be in keeping with the administration’s guiding principle on the border crisis which has been PR considerations first and everything else second.
Update: UAC numbers are rising.
The number of unaccompanied teens and children crossing the border appears to be rising again, with 534 non-Mexican minors taken into CBP custody yesterday, highest total we've seen since the spring. pic.twitter.com/q1OsTwaFxc
— Nick Miroff (@NickMiroff) June 23, 2021