Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, reacted Wednesday to Vice President Kamala Harris’ announcement that she would visit the U.S.-Mexico border this week, after 91 days as border czar. Cruz said Harris’ plan to visit El Paso, Texas, will still place her a significant distance from the epicentre of the crisis, in the Rio Grande Valley.
Harris, who was tasked by President Joe Biden to lead diplomatic efforts to stem the flow of migrants arriving on the southern border, will visit El Paso, Texas, on Friday, according to sources familiar with the trip. She will be accompanied by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Symone Sanders, the vice president’s senior adviser and chief spokesperson, confirmed the trip in a statement, saying, “Earlier this year, the President asked the Vice President to oversee our diplomatic efforts to address the root causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. As a part of this ongoing work, the Vice President travelled to Guatemala and Mexico earlier this month and will travel to El Paso on Friday.”
Harris and her team have repeatedly pushed back against criticism that neither she nor the president has gone to visit the U.S.-Mexico border, arguing that she is more focused on tackling the destabilizing conditions that are causing thousands of migrants from Central America to head to the border seeking refuge. That was the central message during her first foreign trip, a two-day visit to Mexico and Guatemala earlier this month. While there, Harris met with local officials and implored migrants not to make the journey across Mexico into the United States.
“Earlier this year, the President asked the Vice President to oversee our diplomatic efforts to address the root causes of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras,” Harris spokeswoman Symone Sanders in a statement, according to Politico.
“As a part of this ongoing work, the Vice President travelled to Guatemala and Mexico earlier this month and will travel to El Paso on Friday.”
This sounds perfectly reasonable — except for where Harris picked to visit. As Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz noted, she’s not even close to where the problem is.
“Where the crisis is most acute is in the Rio Grande Valley, which is 800 miles away from El Paso,” Cruz told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“To put that in perspective, Chicago, Illinois, is closer to Washington than McAllen is to El Paso.”
He made similar remarks in an appearance on Fox News.
Watch it here: Fox News/Youtube
He noted that “El Paso is on the western tip of Texas, the Rio Grande Valley is almost on the southern tip of Texas.”
Texas’ other senator, Republican John Cornyn, agreed.
“My recommendation is that she go to the, to ground zero, which is the Rio Grande Valley. El Paso is a much different situation than the Valley. This Valley is really at the eye of the storm,” Cornyn said, according to the Star-Telegram.
Between October 2020 and May 2021, 271,927 encounters were recorded in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, compared with 113,824 in the El Paso Sector.
In May — a month that saw the most border encounters in two decades — the Rio Grande saw 50,793 encounters, with only 22,219 in the El Paso region.
This line of criticism mightn’t have got any traction if this visit were coming earlier in the crisis — or if Harris and the White House had managed the issue better.
After visiting Mexico and Guatemala earlier this month, Harris sat down for an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt where she seemed beyond unprepared for a question regarding when she would visit the southern border.
“At some point, you know — we are going to the border. We’ve been to the border,” Harris said.
“You haven’t been to the border,” Holt replied.
“And I haven’t been to Europe,” Harris said, laughing. “And I mean, I don’t understand the point that you’re making. I’m not discounting the importance of the border.”
Cringe. Kamala Harris doesn’t get it.
Holt: “Do you have any plans to visit the border?”
Harris: “We’ve been to the border. We’ve been the border.”
Holt: “YOU haven’t been to the border.”
Harris: “…..and I haven’t been to Europe. I don’t understand the point you’re making.” pic.twitter.com/fFXMf8X0b6
— Andrew Clark (@AndrewHClark) June 8, 2021
After the interview, the White House tried to reframe criticism of Harris’ answer as the veep bravely standing up to Republican criticism.
“At some point, [Harris] may go to the border. I don’t have any trips to preview for you, or predictor a timeline for that,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki during a June 8 news conference.
“I will say we’re not taking advice from former President Trump or most of the Republicans who are criticizing us on this, given they were all sitting there while we created this problem we walked into — both at the border — and with the movement of migration that has been growing over the last year,” she added.
“So, we’re not taking out guidance and advice from them, but if it is constructive and it moves the ball forward for [Harris] to visit the border, she certainly might do that.”
Naturally, then, Harris announced her visit to the border a little over a week after former President Donald Trump announced he’d be visiting the border with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on June 30 — and that she’d be visiting just in time to beat Trump to the border by five days! A coincidence.
Then it takes Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to point out just how far she’s going to be from the real action.
Ted Cruz said “91 days ago she was named border czar in charge of the border crisis and she demonstrated strong leadership by doing not a damn thing, by going nowhere near the border, by doing everything she could to hide from the crisis. Now, frankly, that’s the same thing Joe Biden is doing. She’s emulating the president in hiding from the crisis and so suddenly former President Trump is going to the border and they realize “oh crap we gotta do something.”