AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Vice President Kamala Harris touched down in El Paso Friday morning to assess border operations in the area. She’s faced criticism for the timing of her trip.
State leaders, including Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales (TX-23), have been urging Harris to visit for months, and it’s just days before Gov. Greg Abbott and former Pres. Donald Trump’s border tour.
Harris defended the timing of the trip, explaining it was always going to happen and was just a matter of when. She also said her previous trips addressed the root cause of the current border crisis.
“My trip to Guatemala and Mexico was about addressing the root causes, the stories that I heard and the interactions that we had today reinforce the nature of those root causes — lack of economic opportunity, very often violence,” Harris said.
Fellow Democrat Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) said while he’s glad she finally made the trip, he wishes she would have visited the Rio Grande Valley.
“My hope would have been that she would have been to the epicenter, which is about 800 miles down there,” Rep. Cuellar said.
The Rio Grande Valley sector has had 271,927 border encounters, while the El Paso sector has had 113,824. The El Paso sector also has more capacity.
“That is putting them at a breaking point,” Rep. Gonzales said.
Rep. Gonzales said he supports the state surging law enforcement officials to the border but explained it’s only part of the solution.
“The men and women that are in that space, the border patrol agents, the sheriffs that are doing the work are exhausted. They need help. In the same breath, America is a nation of immigrants,” Rep. Gonzales said.
He and Rep. Cuellar agree lawmakers need to meet in the middle to address systemic issues.
“Democrats only talk about the push factors, what happens in those countries. Republicans only talk about the pull factors, what happens at the border. My perspective is we need to look at the push factors and the pull factors,” Rep. Cuellar explained.
Rep. Gonzales is working with other Texas lawmakers, including Sen. John Cornyn, to pass the bipartisan Border Solutions Act. The bill would take border patrol agents out of the processing sector and back out into the field, add 150 immigration judges at the border and establish a way to track migrant children.
“We have to protect these innocent children. And this bill follows those children tracks them to make sure that they’re put in good homes, and they’re not put in vulnerable situations,” Rep. Gonzales explained.