(CNN)Vice President Kamala Harris will head to the US-Mexico border on Friday, her office confirmed, following weeks of criticism that she hasn’t visited the area despite being tasked by the Biden administration with trying to stem the flow of migration from Central America.
The upcoming trip to El Paso, Texas, comes as Harris has been dogged by Republican criticism of her absence at the border after being asked by President Joe Biden to lead diplomatic relations in the Northern Triangle in an attempt to alleviate the tide of migration over the southern border.
In a statement released Wednesday, Harris spokeswoman Symone Sanders confirmed the trip, adding that she would be accompanied by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
“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 traveled to Guatemala and Mexico earlier this month and will travel to El Paso on Friday,” the statement read.
Politico was first to report the trip.
Senior administrations officials rejected the notion that Harris’ visit amounts to the vice president bucking to GOP pressure to visit the southern border.
“She has always said she will visit the US border,” one senior official said. This official pointed to Harris saying in March she had been to the border before and “I’m sure I will again.”
The senior official called it a “cause-and-effect” strategy, labeling Harris’ efforts in Guatemala and Mexico as addressing the cause and her upcoming visit to the border as addressing the effect. That’s despite months of countering from aides both publicly and privately that Harris’ focus is not the border.
“She went first to the cause. This trip follows the extension of that work in addressing the root causes. It’s the effect, because what happens at the border matters and is the direct effect of what’s happening in the countries in the [Northern Triangle] region,” the official said.
Officials argued her trip’s timing is a matter of “sequencing,” defending the notion that the first place Harris should have visited was not the US-Mexico border but the actual Northern Triangle nations.
“This really is to continue informing her strategy and work,” another official said. Aides to Harris summarized her Guatemala and Mexico visit in similar terms earlier this months, describing it as a fact finding mission that would inform her larger strategy on how to deal with the region.
The trip is also about drawing a contrast with the Trump administration’s immigration and border policies. A third senior administration official called El Paso the “birthplace” of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, pointing to a 2017 pilot program.
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