After months of mounting criticism for avoiding an in-person visit to the U.S.–Mexico border, Vice President Kamala Harris finally announced such a trip earlier this week.
Her stop in Texas on Friday is hundreds of miles from where the crisis is most severe, however, and the decision even attracted backlash from one prominent Democrat.
Harris avoids “epicenter”
According to the Washington Examiner, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) echoed the outrage of many Republicans in denouncing the vice president’s “politically safe trip” that avoids the “epicenter” of the ongoing border crisis.
Harris announced that she would be visiting El Paso, which is roughly 800 miles from the Rio Grande Valley region in southeastern Texas, where the bulk of the immigration surge is occurring.
The reality can be confirmed by a review of U.S. Customs and Border Protection data for the current fiscal year.
While the El Paso Sector saw an increase of 267.5% in Border Patrol apprehension compared to the same period during the previous year, those numbers pale in comparison to the results from the Rio Grande Valley Sector.
In that region, there have been 271,927 apprehensions thus far this fiscal year — or an increase of 406.7% over the 53,669 at this point last year. The nearby Del Rio Sector saw fewer overall apprehensions but an even larger statistical year-over-year increase.
“I couldn’t answer him”
Cuellar appeared on Fox News on Thursday and offered some gratitude to Harris for her decision to finally visit the border, but insisted that she would not “get a true picture of what’s happening” without visiting the Lower Rio Grande.
“Yesterday, I got a call from one of my Border Patrol friends and say, ‘Hey, why is she going over there? We got about 140% higher crossings over here, and this is where the activity’s at,'” the lawmaker said. “And I couldn’t answer him.”
Referring to the El Paso visit as a “first step,” Cuellar went on to advise Harris that “she’s got to spend time with landowners, with stakeholders, with cities, the counties, officials,” as well as the border officials responsible for monitoring the region.
Of course, he has been among those asking the vice president to plan a border visit. Just last week, he revealed that he had not heard back from her personally and only learned of the El Paso trip through news reports.
Acknowledging that he had “no idea” why it took her so long to visit the border, Cuellar added: “I’m sure her planners told her that if you’re going to go down to the border, go to something that’s safer to go to, that is, politically safer. But she does do the ‘check the box’ and go down to the border by going to El Paso.”