Vice President Kamala Harris is doubling down on the Biden administration’s bet that illegal immigration can be solved south of the border.
Making her first trip to the U.S.-Mexico boundary as vice president, Ms. Harris on Friday said she’s now seen the situation up close in Mexico, Central America and here at home, and emerged more convinced than ever that the key is to build up foreign countries.
“One of the things that — every place — has been a theme has been: People don’t want to leave home if they don’t have to,” Ms. Harris told reporters after visiting with agents at a Border Patrol office in El Paso, making a snap trip to the Paso del Norte border crossing to see migrants who hoped to make asylum claims, and meeting with immigrant-rights advocates.
She said nothing had changed her view that the solutions to the new record surge of illegal immigration lie south of the border, in trying to convince people not to come.
“And when they do, it is because either they are fleeing some harm or because to stay means that they cannot provide for the basic necessities of their family,” she said.
It’s a bet the Biden administration’s entire immigration policy is riding on — and one Border Patrol agents and even Homeland Security’s own experts say doesn’t track with what they’re seeing.
A Homeland Security-funded report released earlier this month concluded that most migrants are coming because they can make far more money in the U.S. than they can at home.
Surveys of people in the key Central American countries also show a large interest in leaving home to come to the U.S.
Border Patrol agents have also questioned the Biden administration’s sense for what’s going on. They say the current record surge is a response to more lenient policies from the Biden team, which have given migrants a sense that they have a better chance of being allowed to stay under the new regime.
Ms. Harris visited El Paso on the advice of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, bypassing the Rio Grande Vally region of Texas, which is bearing the brunt of the migrant surge.
The vice president said El Paso highlighted some key points in the current immigration debate, including the changes between the Trump era and the Biden era.
El Paso was one of the first locations to see the Trump zero-tolerance policy put into effect, which led to the separation of children from parents who were being jailed for illegally jumping the border.
El Paso was also an early site for the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy, which helped solve the last border surge by forcing illegal immigrants to wait in Mexico for their U.S. court hearings, denying them the foothold in the U.S. that most were seeking. The Biden team has erased that policy, calling it too harsh on the migrants.
“We’ve seen the disastrous effects of that right here in this region,” Ms. Harris said.
She also gave an attaboy to Mr. Mayorkas, who was shepherding her on the trip.
“Mr. Secretary, you’re doing a great job,” she said.
Ms. Harris’s visit came just days ahead of a planned trip by former President Donald Trump, who will tour the border with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Mr. Trump, at a rally in Ohio on Saturday, took credit for forcing Ms. Harris to make her own visit, after months of laughing off the suggestion.
“If I didn’t do that, I don’t know if she was ever going to go,” he said.
Mr. Trump says he turned over a secure border to President Biden, who has replaced it with “radical left, open-border fanaticism” that has squandered all the gains.
May saw the highest number of illegal immigrant apprehensions in two decades, and after a dip from catastrophic to merely troubling numbers, unaccompanied migrant children are once again reaching catastrophic levels.
As of Friday, the five-day average of Central American UACs caught at the border was nearly 2,250, the highest level in about two months