Vice President Kamala Harris will finally got to to the border, visiting El Paso on June 25. That visit will come three months and a day after President Joe Biden appointed her to take the lead on efforts to restrict migration from Mexico and the “Northern Triangle” countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. She’s a little late.
I have previously referred to Harris’s role as “Border Czar” (if she’s not in charge, who is?), but the vice president has eschewed that honorific. That said, as even the Washington Post has admitted: “In a stream of news briefings, interviews and statements, the administration — and Harris herself — have struggled to make clear which problems Harris is trying to solve and what is outside her purview.”
Biden’s rambling March 24 announcement was a bit vague on the issue. Among other things, he stated:
I’ve asked her, the VP, today — because she’s the most qualified person to do it — to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle and the countries that help — are going to need help in stemming the movement of so many folks, stemming the migration to our southern border.
[T]his increase has been consequential, but the Vice President has agreed — among the multiple other things that I have her leading — and I appreciate it — agreed to lead our diplomatic effort and work with those nations to accept re- — the returnees, and enhance migration enforcement at their borders — at their borders.
Even if Harris’s role were limited to that confusing description, determining why exactly migrants are entering the United States illegally is key to fulfilling it, as even Harris has admitted. She told NBC News’ Lester Holt on June 8: “We have to understand that there’s a reason people are arriving at our border and ask what is that reason and then identify the problems so we can fix it.”
Respectfully, that means first and foremost going to the border and talking to the agents who are apprehending those migrants, as well as to the migrants themselves.
Harris’s failure to do so yet has actually become the story, and she has struggled to explain her reasons for not going to the border. Consequently, her decision to go to El Paso has been breaking news, featured on ABC News, Axios, CBS News, CNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and even Nasdaq.com (to name a few).
It should have not have been a “stop the presses” moment, but it was. The important thing is not, however, the fact that Harris is headed to the border, but what she does while she is there.
Will she talk to the Border Patrol agents who are actually apprehending those migrants, and are thus the first federal government employees to speak to them? If so, will those agents be allowed to speak freely?
Given the fact that the Biden administration has given Border Patrol agents a whole list of “approved” language that they are allowed to use in describing aliens (which does not include, well, “alien”), the signs are not promising.
Will Harris speak directly to the migrants themselves? If she does, will she do it shortly after they have entered, or will it be long after? The responses she receives could depend on when she asks the questions.
Will Harris actually head into the field to see the hazards that Border Patrol agents face on an hourly basis? It gets hot in Texas in late June, and doing so may give her — and her boss — a new appreciation for the men and women on the line.
Will she visit areas where there are border fences, and where there are none? As my colleague Todd Bensman reported on June 21, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) has vowed to complete them after their construction was put on “pause” by the Biden administration.
I seriously doubt that Harris will ask either Abbott or Bensman to tag along, but how about talking to land-owners whose businesses have been impacted by illegal immigration and a lack of border infrastructure? That would be eye-opening, and I could give her some leads.
Or local law-enforcement officers whose job descriptions now include responding to illegal entrants and smugglers, and caring for children? Again, I know some people.
I am no rookie, and know that such high-level visits are pristine, coordinated, and controlled. That said, the facts at the border sometimes have their own way of revealing themselves. That may be why the vice president has waited so long to go there.