(CNN) – The Vice President Kamala Harris He visited the southern border in El Paso, Texas, on Friday to see an immigrant processing center, after criticism for not visiting the US-Mexico border and after First bumpy ride abroad to Guatemala and Mexico earlier this month.
The vice president toured the El Paso processing center, a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility, and spoke with five young men from Central America.
During a press conference at the end of her trip, Harris said the girls were there without their parents.
“They are without their parents. They are also full of hope. They asked me questions. ‘How do you become the first vice president? But it also reminds me of the fact that this issue cannot be reduced to a political question. We are talking about the palace. We are talking about families. We are talking about suffering. Our approach must be thoughtful and effective, Harris said.
During his visit, he stressed the need to address the “root causes” of migration, saying during his press conference “When we have this talk about what’s happening at the border, let’s not lose sight of the fact that we’re talking about it.” human beings.”
“People don’t want to leave the house if they don’t have to,” he said.
Harris also participated in a walking tour and attended an operating briefing. Later, she had a conversation with activists from religious NGOs and providers of shelter and legal services.
Harris was accompanied on her trip by Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mallorcas, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, and Democratic Representative of Texas, Veronica Escobar.
The El Paso visit comes amid mounting criticism of Harris since President Joe Biden tasked him with leading diplomatic efforts in the Northern Triangle to tackle immigration.
Harris had a difficult first foreign trip, His two-day tour in Mexico and Guatemala, Some sources told CNN at the time that the trip left some officials confused about his rambling responses to questions about whether he would go to the border.
“At some point, you know, we’re going to go to the border,” Harris said in an interview with NBC News during his trip to Central America. We have gone to the border. So all this, all this, all this borderline thing. We have gone to the border. We have gone to the border.
But when pressed about the fact that he had not yet visited the border, Harris replied, “…and I have not visited Europe. I mean, no…I don’t understand the point you make,” Harris said with a laugh, adding, “I don’t underestimate the importance of the border.” .
This response intensified the Republican Party’s criticism of its absence from the frontier.
Asked on Friday why the time was now to reach the border, Harris said it was important for him to visit Guatemala and Mexico before visiting the borders to support those meetings that addressed the root causes of migration.
“To be in Guatemala, to be in Mexico, to talk to Mexico as a partner, frankly about it, was to address the causes. And then to come to the border for advice, and in fact, at the invitation of a congressman, is to see the effects of what we saw In Central America, that’s why I’m glad to be here.This has always been the plan to come here.
When asked whether the trip to the border was primarily the administration’s caving in to Republican pressure, Harris’s chief spokeswoman, Simone Sanders, told reporters in a Thursday night phone call that “this administration does not understand its cues from Republican critics, nor does the former president of the United States of America.”
We’ve said on several occasions… it’s going to the border. You’ve gone before, you’ll go again. You’ll go where appropriate, when it makes sense. And this trip tomorrow, this moment, is what makes sense for the vice president’s agenda, but also for our partners on the ground,” Sanders added.
Sanders called the visit part of a “cause-and-effect” strategy, calling Harris’ efforts in Guatemala and Mexico the cause and his upcoming visit to the border the result. And that’s despite the fact that his advisors have repeated for months, both in private and in public, that Harris’s goal is no boundary.
Officials also indicated that the flight will be subject to Contrary to immigration policies and the limits of the Trump administration, with Sanders on Thursday calling El Paso the “birthplace” of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, referring to a 2017 pilot program.
A record number of unaccompanied minors crossed into the United States this spring, sharpening the Republican Party’s criticism of the Biden administration’s handling. CBP encountered more than 180,000 migrants at the southern border in May, putting the United States on track to exceed the number of border crossings for fiscal year 2019.
Mayorcas said Friday that the administration has made “exceptional progress” in dealing with the situation at the border since March.
Harris said the Biden administration “has made progress” on the “inhumane conditions” at the border, but acknowledged that “there is still a lot of work to do.”
“Our administration, it’s important to be clear, is working to build a fair, efficient and humane immigration system,” the vice president said. “We feel very confident about that.”
Harris was speaking at a roundtable with religious NGOs, which he said would be a “frank conversation.”
The vice president said the Biden administration “inherited a difficult situation,” but within five months, “we’ve made progress.”
During his stay in West Texas, Harris will not visit nearby Fort Bliss, where immigrant children who crossed the US-Mexico border alone continue to spend a lot of time in temporary government facilities, worrying lawyers. children.
Shaw Drake, an attorney and advisor on immigration policy and border rights for the Texas Civil Liberties Union, told CNN’s Ed Lavandera, while the Biden White House has taken some very important steps to address immigration, “The administration, as of this moment, is not doing enough.”
Drake specifically referred to management’s continued reliance on Address 42 and complaints about the inhumane conditions at Fort Bliss. Title 42 is a policy enacted during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic that allows the United States to expel immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Drake stated that the administration took steps to remove minors from Border Patrol facilities quickly when there was an increase in the number of unaccompanied immigrants, but that worrying conditions at other facilities with immigrant minors have not changed.
“We are now facing conditions and concerns in places like Fort Bliss, here in El Paso, where reports continue to reveal children being kept in inhumane conditions facing staff abuse and other issues,” Drake said. “So, there is still a long way to go for the administration to fully abide by the law and respect the rights of all immigrants… who arrive here at the border in search of safety.”
Tyler Moran, the special assistant to the president on immigration at the White House Council on Home Affairs Policy, noted in a Thursday call with reporters that improvements have been made to the facilities, including the addition of 50 mental health professionals. management services.
“The administration is concerned about these reports and we know that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has taken steps to address them. We take this very seriously. This is a serious matter for the President and the Vice President. And we know that it is important for HHS to get to the bottom of the matter and make sure that the The highest standards,” Sanders added.
Biden said of Harris’ trip Thursday that she “has done a great job so far.”
“[The reason]that it is so important for her to go is that now she has set the standards, having spoken with the president of Mexico and the president of Guatemala, and visited the region, to see what we have to do,” Biden told reporters in the East Room of the White House.
Nikki Carvajal, Jasmine Wright, Priscilla Alvarez and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.