As President Biden visits foreign leaders in Europe, Vice President Kamala Harris cannot escape the pressure to visit the southern border amid the historic surge of illegal immigration under her watch as border czar.
In an interview with Univision on Thursday, Harris offered a tense response after being pressed by anchor Ilia Calderón on when she would finally visit the crossing amid the worsening migrant crisis.
“I’ve said I’m going to the border,” the vice president replied. “And I–“
“When are you going to the border, vice president?” Calderón interrupted her to ask.
“I’m not finished,” Harris replied with an uncomfortable laugh, raising her finger at the host.
“I’ve said I’m going to the border. And also if we are going to deal with the problems at the border, we have to deal with the problems that cause people to go to the border, to flee to the border,” Harris went on.
“So my first trip as vice president of the United States was to go — in terms of a foreign trip — to Guatemala, to be on the ground there to address and to be informed of the root causes why are the people of Guatemala leaving.”
“Do you have a date for your trip to the border?” Calderón followed up by asking.
“I will keep you posted,” Harris replied.
Harris, who visited Guatemala and Mexico this week as part of her first foreign visit in office, was dogged for her entire trip with questions about going to surveil the situation at the US-Mexico border in person.
Her answer to NBC News’ Lester Holt on the matter has continued to haunt her in the days since.
“At some point, you know, we are going to the border,” a defensive Harris told Holt on “Today” in Guatemala — 1,308 miles away from the US-Mexico crossing.
“We’ve been to the border. So this whole thing about the border, we’ve been to the border,” Harris said, to which Holt replied, “You haven’t been to the border.”
Harris, seeming to laugh at her own joke, responded: “And I haven’t been to Europe. And I mean, I don’t understand the point that you’re making. I’m not discounting the importance of the border.”
The Biden administration’s undoing of former President Donald Trump’s border policies has prompted a flood of Central American and Mexican illegal migrants at the US border, including thousands of unescorted children.
Central Americans looking for refuge from the Northern Triangle countries — Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — have taken these policy moves, as well as the overwhelmingly more welcoming tone from Democrats, as a sign that President Biden is inviting them to cross the border.
Insisting that the border was not facing a crisis, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in early March that the problems the agency faced should be blamed on the previous administration.
The data, however, overwhelmingly shows that migrants are flooding the border because they believe Biden will welcome them with open arms, with over 170,000 illegal crossings a month.
As the crisis heated up, Biden tapped his vice president to address the diplomatic measures related to its “root causes.” However, despite intense pressure, she has yet to visit and surveil the situation for herself.
Several leaders in Central America and Mexico have come out to blame the Biden administration for the crisis that has been sparked since they took the helm.
Most recently, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said on American media Wednesday, on the heels of Harris’ trip, that the Democrats’ “lukewarm” rhetoric and unwillingness to impose harsher punishments on human smuggling were key factors in the current situation.
“Well, humanitarian messages were used here by the coyotes in a distorted manner because what they said over there was that they will promote family reunification,” Giammattei explained, appearing to refer to Biden’s messaging on immigration during the campaign.
“So the coyotes came and took the children and the teenagers to the United States and the borders were full, not only with people from Guatemala, but with a lot of people from all over,” he continued. “Which is why our proposal is that messages should be clear,” he told Fox News.