Courtesy of The White House
Editor’s note: This story was last updated at 2:35 p.m.
Vice President Kamala Harris visited El Paso today, June 25, joined by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar. According to a statement from the vice president’s office, the visit builds on diplomatic work with Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Harris arrived in El Paso shortly before 6 a.m. this morning and toured the El Paso Border Patrol Station and met with a number of area leaders in nonprofits that aid immigrants.
This is her first visit to El Paso and to the border as vice president but, according to an update sent by the director of communications and special projects of Escobar, she has made other trips to the border in California, at Calexico, San Ysidro and Otay Mesa, San Diego.
This trip comes two weeks after a visit to Guatemala and is a continuation of her effort to identify the root causes driving immigration from Central America.
“We have to deal with causes and we have to deal with the effects, so being in Guatemala being in Mexico was about addressing the causes, and coming to the border at the advice of the congresswoman (Escobar) is about looking at the effects that we have seen happening in Central America,” said Vice President Harris.
“As she said during her trip to Guatemala and Mexico, what happens at the border matters and is directly connected to the work she is doing to address the root causes of migration: poverty, corruption, violence and a climate crisis. El Paso represents larger border dynamics – critical part of understanding human experience of immigration. It’s a vibrant border city, with three major ports of entry,” a release from the vice president’s office said.
Shortly before Harris landed in El Paso this morning, Senior Advisor and Chief Spokesperson for Kamala Harris, Symone Sanders, gave remarks and Mayorkas took questions. When asked about the conditions of the Fort Bliss immigration facility Sanders stepped in and said “The administration is taking this very seriously. Extremely seriously.”
She said the president and the vice president “have instructed (Department of Health and Human Services) Secretary (Xavier) Becerra to do a thorough investigation.”
At around 9:20 a.m. the vice president came out of the border patrol facility and made a surprise visit to the Paso Del Norte Port of Entry. While inside, the VP met with five girls, ages 9-16, from Central America. They drew pictures for her and they told the VP what they wanted to be when they grow up to which they answered veterinarian, police officer to keep people safe, civil engineer, doctor and wants to open her own clinic to heal people, a release from the vice president’s office said.
Harris said she was “honored” to be joined by Mayorkas, Durbin and Escobar. She said the day would “be about as much as anything addressing the effects of what I’ve already been addressing,” which is the root cause of migration from Central America. Mayorkas said the “vice president is leading our nation’s efforts to address the root causes” and the “fundamental question of why people leave their homes,” according to the release.
“I approach our work with two principles: one that most people do not want to leave home,” Harris said, adding that when they do it is to flee harm or because staying means they cannot satisfy the basic needs of their family. Her second principle was the capacity to give people “hope.” She said it is important to her and the president to not only maintain access but provide a role for the leaders at the table to participate
Harris met with faith and community leaders who are assisting with the processing of migrants seeking asylum and local service providers to discuss their experiences with migration from Central America. The following people participated in these discussions:
Alejandro “Ali” Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Congresswoman U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas, El Paso)
Bishop Mark J. Seitz, Sixth Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso
Linda Rivas, Executive Director of the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center
Taylor Levy, Immigration Attorney
Marisa Limón Garza, Deputy Director of the Hope Border Institute
Dylan Corbett, Executive Director of the Hope Border Institute
Ruben Garcia, Shelter Director at Annunciation House
Melissa Lopez, Executive Director of Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Service
Anilu Chadwick, Managing Attorney for the Emergency Intake Shelter at Ft. Bliss
Fernando Garcia, Executive Director for Border Network for Human Right
In her last stop of her trip the vice president gave a press conference to deliver remarks about her recent visits to Guatemala, Mexico, and El Paso.
“Let’s recognize the sense of humanity and that these issues must be addressed not as facts but as the reality that is happening in order to address these problems and fix them,” she said.
Mayorkas said he recommended a visit to El Paso because it is one of the busiest sectors on the border.
“El Paso reflects many diverse elements of our mission. It demonstrates also the progress that has been made and the work that remains,” he said at a press conference.
Rep. Veronica Escobar, during the brief conference, described El Paso as the perfect place for Harris “to continue on her exploration of the issues around why people are leaving their country,” and thanked the vice president for accepting her invitation to come.
“El Paso has been central to so much of what we have seen for decades when it comes to immigration,” she said.