Vice President Kamala Harris will finally visit the U.S.-Mexico Border tomorrow. Harris was tasked by her boss, President Joe Biden, over 90 days ago with stemming the flow of migrants to the border. 

Instead, the border czar has spent the past three months running away from the deteriorating situation, even skipping over the U.S. southern border for a diplomatic tour of Central America. Finally, her flight from the southern border is over.

The vice president may be visiting the state but the exact location was cherry-picked to avoid the worst of the crisis. She is not going to the Rio Grande Valley area, considered the epicenter of the crisis because it is the busiest area for crossings, but rather El Paso, Texas in the southwest part of the state that doesn’t see nearly as much foot traffic from migrants. This is not lost on the area’s Democratic congressional members who have begged her to visit for months. A few have been vocal about their concerns over the surge of migrants and their impact on the local communities.  

Why now? 

If the timing of this trip seems suspicious, it is. Earlier this month, in a now-famous interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, VP Harris laughed off the question of whether she would go to the border. When pressed, she flippantly added that she hadn’t “been to Europe either.” This tone-deaf response and attitude rubbed many the wrong way. Europeans are not attempting to cross into our country illegally by the hundreds of thousands. There is a real humanitarian, health, and public safety crisis at the U.S. southern border though.

What changed her mind? White House staff claim this was always part of a strategy to address the cause and effect of the migrant surge: 

She has always said she will visit the US border…

She went first to the cause. This trip follows the extension of that work in addressing the root causes. It’s the effect, because what happens at the border matters and is the direct effect of what’s happening in the countries in the [Northern Triangle] region…

No amount of creative spinning is as convincing as the likely prompt: a presidential visit to the southern border scheduled for next week. Not by Joe Biden, but Donald Trump. 

Former President Trump will join Texas Governor Greg Abbott and other House Republicans on May 30th. It appears she wanted to get ahead of the former president’s trip so as not to seem like she’s slacking on the job.

Actions matter though. Her inaction and the Biden administration’s direct reversal of Trump-era policies have led to the migrant surge. Yet, they have done nothing to stem the flood of immigrants. Her weak warning not to come during her recent trip means little in comparison to the powerful incentives that their policy changes created.

What she’ll see

VP Harris’s trip is long overdue. Sadly, she’s only expected to touch down for about 2 hours. Some might interpret that as more of a photo-op than a serious fact-finding mission to see firsthand the situation on the ground, as she did when visiting Central America for days. 

What she’s going to see will not be pretty. According to monthly figures from Customs and Border Protection as reported by Politico:

  • In May, more than 180,000 migrants were apprehended at the border.
  • More than 18,800 unaccompanied children crossed the border in March, the highest on record since May 2019. Although April and May crossings have fallen they still remain above May 2019 levels.

Bad to worse

The border crisis is set to get a lot worse. Both the number of people attempting to enter illegally and the number of people who will successfully gain entrance will likely spike this summer. The majority of the 180,000 migrants apprehended (more than 112,000) were quickly expelled, but that will change when the March 2020 Trump administration public health order, Title 42, ends. The Biden administration has signaled that they will end Title 42 as soon as mid-July.

We can expect tomorrow’s border visit to be a big public spectacle with little actual change. In different ways, the vice president has made it clear that the crisis at the southern border is not a major priority. Only a potential 2024 contender can nudge her away from her other pressing priorities, but just as quickly as she gets down there is as quickly as she’ll be gone.