Kamala Harris to make first U.S.-Mexico border visit as vice president

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Vice President Kamala Harris has traveled to Mexico and Guatemala but Friday will mark her first visit to the border since the 2020 election. Pool photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI

Vice President Kamala Harris has traveled to Mexico and Guatemala but Friday will mark her first visit to the border since the 2020 election. Pool photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo

June 23 (UPI) -- Vice President Kamala Harris has scheduled her first trip to the U.S.-Mexico border amid growing Republican criticism that she hasn't visited since President Joe Biden tasked her with leading the administration's immigration efforts three months ago.

Harris' senior adviser and spokeswoman, Symone Sanders, said the vice president will travel to El Paso, Texas, on Friday with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

"Earlier this year, the president asked the vice president to oversee our diplomatic efforts to address the root causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras," Sanders said. "As a part of this ongoing work, the vice president traveled to Guatemala and Mexico earlier this month and will travel to El Paso on Friday."

On March 24, Biden tapped Harris to lead efforts to stem immigration at the southern border as an influx of migrants -- including thousands of unaccompanied minors -- overwhelmed government facilities.

Harris visited Guatemala and Mexico earlier this month in what she described as an effort to stem immigration by targeting the root causes.

The plan, the White House says, will focus on "combating corruption, strengthening democratic governance and advancing the rule of law" in the Northern Triangle, promoting human rights, addressing economic insecurity and inequality and other concerns.

Speaking alongside Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on June 7, Harris said people in the region must be given "a sense of hope that help is on the way and to then follow through, understanding that hope does not exist by itself."

"It must be coupled with relationships of trust," she said. "It must be coupled with tangible outcomes, in terms of what we do as leaders to convince people that there is a reason to be hopeful about their future and the future of their children."

Republicans, meanwhile, have questioned why Harris hasn't, until this point, visited the U.S.-Mexico border. After the announcement of Friday's trip, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, one of Harris' most vocal critics, tweeted a meme implying the administration was moving "at a glacial pace" on border issues.

"This is wrong, it's inhuman ... and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are AWOL," Cruz said in a video message June 21. "It's time to go to the border; it's time to abandon these failed policies that have produced this crisis."

The number of migrants U.S. Customs and Border Protection "encountered" at the border in March reached a two-decade high of about 173,000. That was a 70% spike over February's encounters and a five-fold increase over the same month in 2020.

The most recent data for the month of May showed that trend was continuing, with about 180,000 encounters for the month, up from 23,237 in May 2020.

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