US Vice President Kamala Harris visited the US border with Mexico, arriving in El Paso, Texas on Friday, as the administration of US President Joe Biden faces criticism for its immigration policy amid an influx of migrants mostly coming from Central America.
Harris said that she and US president Joe Biden "inherited a tough situation" during a meeting with faith-based organizations, migrant shelters, and legal service providers.
"In five months we've made progress, but there's still more work to be done, but we've made progress," she added.
What did Harris do during the border visit?
It was Harris' first trip to the border as vice president, and the vice president met with five girls between 9 and 16 years old, who have been held at a Customs and Border Protection processing center after crossing into the US, said the White House.
Harris also traveled to the border itself at the Paso del Norte Port of Entry.
Harris said she was devoted to fighting the "root causes" of migration, primarily poverty, crime and corruption in Central America.
"The stories that I heard today reinforce the nature of these root causes…it is going to require, as we have been doing, a comprehensive approach that acknowledges each piece of this."
President Biden has tasked Harris with addressing the issue of immigration.
Symone Sanders, chief spokesperson for the vice president, told reporters Thursday that the Biden administration inherited "a broken and inhumane immigration system."
She also blamed former President Donald Trump for poor conditions at the border.
"The previous administration's policies led to chaos at the border, family separation, inhumane conditions, dismal diplomacy towards and with Central America," Sanders said.
Record number of migrants come to US border
The numbers of migrants reaching the US border with Mexico has surged under the Biden administration. In May, US Customs and Border Protection detained over 180,000 migrants, the highest figure since 2000.
Many of these migrants come not only from Mexico, but also other Latin American countries such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Cuba. Some migrants also journey to the border from Haiti and African countries.
Harris previously visited Mexico and Guatemala earlier this month to address the "root causes" of migration.
She was criticized for not giving a direct answer to why she had not visited the border earlier in a broadcast interview, with the vice president laughing and saying she hadn't "been to Europe" either.
Republicans make border crisis top issue ahead of midterms
Republicans have made the Biden administration's handling of the border crisis a major point of criticism ahead of midterm elections next year.
A group of House Republicans will visit the border next week, along with former President Donald Trump.
The former president made border security and illegal immigration key focuses of his administration and presidential campaigns. He used emergency executive powers as president to bypass Congress and divert funding from the Pentagon for a border wall with Mexico.
Biden has reversed Trump's wall plans since taking office. Biden has also dropped Trump's "Remain in Mexico" policy. This forces migrants to stay in Mexico until they receive court decisions on their asylum cases.
Republicans hope that they can portray Biden and the Democrats as weak on illegal immigration and border security. They believe this messaging will allow them to take back the House and Senate in midterm elections next year.
wd,kbd/rt (AP, Reuters)