WASHINGTON - U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is planning to visit the U.S.-Mexico border Friday as part of her effort to curb the surge in migrants attempting to enter the United States, while examining the root causes of migration from Central America.
Her office said Wednesday that Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas would accompany her to El Paso, Texas, one of the main migrant entry points.
Harris visited Guatemala and Mexico earlier this month, pointedly telling migrants “do not come” to the U.S.
But thousands of migrants from those two countries, along with those from Honduras and El Salvador, have been making the trek to the border, many on foot, trying to escaping poverty and crime in their homelands, they say.
U.S. border agents are facing the biggest number of undocumented migrants in two decades. They apprehended more than 180,000 at the border in May, mostly single adults. The figure was up slightly from the 170,000-plus numbers in both March and April.
Most of the migrants are coming from Latin America, but many also are from Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and some African nations.
The surge has grown since President Joe Biden and Harris took office in January, with Biden saying he was adopting what he called a more humane stance on migration than that of the Trump administration. Biden picked Harris to oversee efforts to curb the migration by addressing the root causes in Latin America for people to leave their homelands.
Wall construction stops
Biden has ended construction of former President Donald Trump’s border wall, and unlike his predecessor, who expelled the migrants to their home countries, he is allowing unaccompanied children to enter the U.S. But like Trump, Biden is refusing to allow families and single adults to enter.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the average daily number of children in its custody has now dropped to 640. U.S. health authorities are holding another 16,200 migrant children, though, while the government attempts to place them with relatives already living in the U.S. or with vetted caregivers.
Republicans have blamed Biden for the border surge. Before meeting with Harris in early June, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei also told CBS News that when Biden took office, "the very next day, the coyotes were here organizing groups of children to take them to the United States.”
Harris faced frequent questions on her foreign trip, her first as the U.S. second-in-command, about why she had not visited the border. Frustrated at the questions, she told NBC News she also had not visited Europe since taking office.
Opposition Republicans have criticized her lack of a visit to crowded migrant holding facilities at the border, at one point posting a mock-up of a milk carton with her picture that was captioned “Missing at the border.”