Vice President Kamala Harris finally visited the Southern Border late last week after months of dodging the tenuous situation there. Unfortunately, Harris avoided the hot spots of illegal crossings and activities opting for a staged photo-op over addressing the real crisis. And a cherry-picked location wasn’t the vice president’s only missed opportunity on this trip.

Miles from Trouble

VP Harris opted to visit El Paso, Texas with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. El Paso is approximately 800 miles away from the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) considered the epicenter of the crisis.

This is where heart-wrenching stories abound of children being dropped over border walls, left in the open desert in the middle of the night, and left to fend for themselves. The Rio Grande has also taken the lives of many who were swept away while attempting to gain entry into America. This is also where drug cartels are using migrants as distractions for border agents while they smuggle drugs and weapons into our nation.

El Paso, on the other hand, is a legal port of entry and doesn’t experience even half as many illegal entry attempts as the Rio Grande Valley. According to reported figures from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, there were over 50,000 encounters in RGV compared to over 22,000 encounters in El Paso last month.

Secretary Myorkas defended the cherry-picked location: 

It was my recommendation to visit El Paso. El Paso is actually one of the busiest of the nine sectors across the southwest border and it also provides the opportunity to see the full expanse of our work.

Not only [is there] a central processing center, where we encounter migrants, bring them to shelter for transfer to Health and Human Services, but we also were able to visit the port, where we propel lawful trade and travel through that port of entry.

Yet, the facility that the vice president visited reportedly did not process migrants. Instead of seeing the overcrowded facilities and exhausted and overwhelmed border patrol agents, she had a nice powwow with some local church leaders. There’s nothing wrong with engaging with civil society organizations, but what about the hardship the actual migrants are enduring?

Off Message

Vice President Harris used this trip to fire back at conservatives who criticized her for not visiting the southern border in the over 90 days since she had been tasked by President Biden with addressing the spiking migrant crossings.

The border crisis is a bipartisan issue, especially for those who live and work in that area. All Americans are worried about the public health, public safety, and humanitarian issues there. Even Democratic lawmakers from the RGV area have been begging the vice president to visit for months and have been openly critical of the administration’s handling of the problem.

Harris should have acknowledged how dire the border situation is–even if not in the area she had chosen to visit. Instead, she used the opportunity to shrug off accountability and once again blame the Trump administration for the border crisis:

[immigration] cannot be reduced to a political issue. We’re talking about children, we’re talking about families, we’re talking about suffering. And our approach has to be thoughtful and effective.

It is here in El Paso that the previous administration’s child separation policy was unveiled…

We have seen the disaster that resulted from that here in El Paso.

Now, we know that El Paso was selected not only for its distance from the crisis but as an opportunity to bash the previous administration. 

Facts don’t matter though. Child separations at the border occurred under the Obama and Bush administrations, although not at the same level as during the short-lived Trump “zero-tolerance” policy change. Harris perhaps forgot about that.

The same old, same old

Now that the vice president’s visit is in the rearview mirror, don’t expect much more to change at the southern border, except for the worse. Harris likely believes she has placated her critics ahead of a visit by former President Trump this week. 

Sadly, nothing has changed despite her claims that they’ve made some progress. The statistics tell it all: 

  • Nearly 900,000 migrants were stopped by the Border Patrol from Oct. 1 to May 31. 
  • More than 170,000 apprehensions in May — in line with 20-year records set in March and April.
  • Significant numbers of migrants from more distant nations such as Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba and Haiti, the data show.

Can things get any worse? They can and may if President Biden ends the Trump pandemic policy that turns adults away at the border for public health concerns. He has signaled that he may do so as early as mid-July.

Until President Biden and Vice President Harris acknowledge the chaos they unleashed in their hasty attempt to undo most of the Trump administration’s immigration policies, the hardship at the southern border will continue to spiral out of control.