Wednesday, January 26, 2022

After taking flak, ‘Border Tsar’ Kamala Harris finally to visit border

The visit was quickly announced a week after former president Donald Trump announced he would visit the border on June 30.

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US Vice-President Kamala Harris will on Friday make her first trip to the US southern border since assuming the role of border tsar.

She has faced tough questioning about why she has not visited the border since the White House assigned her in March to address the “root causes” of the uncontrolled flood of migrants to the Mexico-US border.

The visit was quickly announced a week after former president Donald Trump announced he would visit the border on June 30.

The number of undocumented migrants reaching the US-Mexico border is at the highest level in more than 20 years.

A BBC investigation of a detention centre for migrant children in El Paso, Texas, has found reports of sexual abuse, Covid and lice outbreaks, hungry children being served undercooked meat and sandstorms ripping through the desert tent camps where they are being held.

When asked on Wednesday whether Harris was bowing to political pressure, White House spokesman Jen Psaki said the vice-president was going because the administration had determined now is the “appropriate time for her to go”.

However, Trump took credit for her change of heart.

In a statement, Trump said: “After months of ignoring the crisis at the southern border, it is great that we got Kamala Harris to finally go and see the tremendous destruction and death that they’ve created – a direct result of Biden ending my very tough but fair border policies.

“Harris and Biden were given the strongest border in American history. And now, it is by far the worst in American history. If Texas Governor Abbott and I weren’t going there next week, she would have never gone!”

Harris has rejected criticism over why she has not gone to the border until now by arguing she is more focused on tackling the conditions in Central America that have spurred hundreds of thousands of migrants to attempt the dangerous trek to the border this year.

Earlier this month, Harris made her first trip abroad as vice-president – travelling to Mexico and Guatemala for talks about the humanitarian crisis. The presidents of both countries have blamed the Biden administration’s policies for causing the record surge in undocumented migration.

While in Guatemala, she told migrants: “Do not come. The US will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border.”

Critics across the political spectrum said her remarks had contradicted the Biden administration’s promise to usher in a more humane approach on migration.

US Customs and Border Protection said it caught 180,034 migrants in May, the biggest monthly total since April 2000, and up slightly from the previous two months.

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