Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday will make her first visit to the U.S.-Mexico border, her office announced, after she has faced criticism from members of both parties for failing to go there despite her role leading the Biden administration’s response to a steep increase in migration.
Watch the briefing in the video player above.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the trip is part of a “coordinated effort,” between the Vice President’s office, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Harris will visit the El Paso area, accompanied by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, according to a statement Wednesday from Harris senior adviser Symone Sanders.
The visit comes as Harris has faced months of attacks from Republicans, and even some frustration from those in her own party, for declining to visit the area. Harris has been tasked by President Joe Biden with taking on the root causes of migration from Central America to the United States.
So far she has focused her efforts on improving economic and living conditions in the region. Her aides have repeatedly insisted her focus is distinct from the security issues that plague U.S. officials trying to handle a spike in border crossings.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection recorded more than 180,000 encounters on the Mexican border in May, the most since March 2000. But the numbers were boosted by a pandemic-related ban on seeking asylum, which encouraged repeated attempts to cross the border because getting caught carried no legal consequences.
Harris’ trip will come just days before former President Donald Trump is set to visit the border next week with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana and about a dozen members of the conservative Republican Study Committee he leads will also be joining the trip, another sign of how closely the party continues to align itself with Trump and the extent to which they see the border as a winning campaign issue.
Psaki also said President Joe Biden will be speaking next week about his plans to pursue voting rights.
It will be “a continuation of his efforts to use the bully pulpit to elevate this issue,” she told reporters