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GOP lawmakers take aim at Kamala Harris for absence at border

New York Post: Juliegrace Brufke

Vice President Kamala Harris is coming under fire by Republicans for her remarks stating that visiting the U.S.-Mexico border would be nothing more than a “grand gesture,” with critics alleging she is opting against seeing the gravity of the situation as the United States grapples with how to best address the surge of migrants attempting to enter the country. 

Harris — who was appointed to serve as the administration’s point person on the border crisis in March — asserted she does note see visiting the border in the immediate future as a necessary component in combating the problem a joint press conference with Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday, telling reporters that she is focused on finding the “root causes” of the influx migration from Central America. 

But GOP lawmakers accused Harris of “burying her head in the sand,” arguing that Biden’s decision to lift Trump-era policies including the “Remain in Mexico” program is the reason behind the unprecedented number of migrants, including unaccompanied children, flooding the southern border, which has led to overcrowding at detention facilities and national security concerns. 

Rep. John Katko — who is the top Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security and recently led a delegation of members to tour the Texas border — said it’s “incomprehensible” to believe you can solve the problem without seeing it firsthand, calling on Harris to make the trip. 

“I can tell you, from a prosecutor standpoint, there is no substitute for going to the scene of the crime. There’s just no substitute for going and seeing for yourself what’s going on at the border,” he told The Post in an interview. 

“It’s quite obvious why she’s not going, because it’s very bad optics for them and they know it. The border is a sieve and everyone at the border will tell you, every agent will tell you that everything changed on Jan. 20 when the president issued his executive orders, and from that point forward, I thought coyotes in the Central American countries as well as in Mexico, knew that it was game on, and that’s when they started gathering up the people to send here.” 

Katko added he thinks her decision not to visit the border is a “slap in the face” to overwhelmed law enforcement officials struggling to combat human trafficking and cartels with minimal resources. 

“The president of Mexico has said it, the leaders of the Northern Triangle countries have said it, and it’s obvious to everyone that this was created by Biden’s policies and she doesn’t want to go down there and see those optics. It’s incomprehensible for her to be in charge of the border security as the point person for her not to go there and visit,” he continued.  

“It would be like telling the Secretary of State you’re in charge of getting peace in Middle East, but  don’t go there. Of course you have to go there and it’s incomprehensible that she would say that she doesn’t need to be there. And I can tell you for every single agent that’s going through hell right now on the southern border, trying to secure it, it’s really a slap in the face to them.” 

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) said he feels that Harris hasn’t made the trip because she “doesn’t want to answer questions from the border patrol and Customs and Border Protection, DEA,  HHS all the people that are down there dealing with this disaster that this administration created,” slamming the vice president for taking her first international trip to Guatemala before seeing what is happening in the U.S. 

“It’s disrespectful to the folks in Texas who are having to deal with this, to the property owners and the people that are down there trying to defend our border and trying to do their jobs that are overrun by these illegal immigrants that are crossing the border,” he said. 

“She doesn’t even have the common courtesy to go down there and speak to them and really get a real feel for what the actual problem is, before she rushes down to Central America, and acts like she’s a problem solver down there — it’s insulting.”   

Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) blasted Harris for promising aid to countries in South America to help quell the number of migrants prior to assessing the situation in the U.S.

“To actually fly 2,000 miles past the border to tell some of the most corrupt countries on Earth how the U.S. will send them billions in American tax dollars as a ransom to supposedly stop their citizens from breaking our laws, demonstrates a terrible lack of judgement,” he said. 

“The responsibility of an elected office holder in charge of a crisis like this is to actually show up; talk to those on the ground living with and working to solve it; see firsthand what’s going on and then offer solutions. Clearly, the White House has determined that the political concerns of being photographed at the border and owning a crisis that might harm future ambitions are more important at the moment.”

Multiple Republicans noted that Harris visited the border while serving in the U.S.  Senate in 2018, where she criticised the Trump administration’s treatment of undocumented immigrants, yet has opted against visiting despite numbers reaching a 21-year high in April, with 178,000 illegal immigrants were apprehended.

“It’s not lost on anyone that during the migrant surge under President Trump, Democrats were tripping over themselves to visit the southern border, yet during the ongoing surge under President Biden’s watch, his own point person is nowhere to be found,” Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), a member of House GOP leadership said. “

“Now that Democrats appear to understand that border policy is more complicated than mere photo-ops, they should work step-by-step with Republicans to first help mitigate the immediate crisis at the border, then to help address the root causes of migrant surges.”

Jackson said he believes Democrats that represent border states will face increasing pressure from constituents to address the problem, adding that it could be a key issue at the ballot box next cycle. 

“I think there’s probably a lot of them that would like to speak out, there are a lot of them that have constituencies that don’t approve of what’s going on and they would like to step up to the plate and say something about it,” he said.  

“I think there’s probably a lot of them that would like to speak out, there are a lot of them that have constituencies that don’t approve of what’s going on and they would like to step up to the plate and say something about it,” he said.  

“[Rep.] Henry Cueller (D-Texas) has been one of them, he’s been really brave about this, he’s pushed back against his own party and he’s represented the people that he represents down there despite the fact that his party would prefer that he not. There are others out there that need to be doing that that want to be doing that but to be honest with you, Nancy Pelosi, but she rules the Democrats with an iron fist.”

While Harris’ comments have been met with sharp pushback from Republicans, she dismissed the criticisms during an interview with NBC on Tuesday. 

“We’ve been to the border. So this whole thing about the border. We’ve been to the border,” she said. 

When pressed about her personally not having been to the border by anchor Lester Holt, she said: “And I haven’t been to Europe. And I mean, I don’t understand the point that you’re making. I’m not discounting the importance of the border.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not rule out the possibility of Harris touring the border in the future

“I think that at some point she may go to the border. We’ll see,” she said during Tuesday’s press briefing. 

“If it is constructive and it moves the ball forward for her to visit the border, she certainly may do that.”