(CNN)Vice President Kamala Harris is visiting the southern border in El Paso, Texas, on Friday to visit a migrant processing center, following dogged criticism for not having visited the US-Mexico border and a rocky first foreign trip to Guatemala and Mexico earlier this month.
The vice president toured the El Paso central processing center, a US Customs and Border Protection Facility, and spoke with five young girls from Central America while there. She participated in a walking tour and attended an operational briefing. Later on in the day, she will hold a conversation with advocates from faith-based NGOs and shelter and legal service providers. At the conclusion of her trip, she’ll take questions from the press.
“We are here today to address and to talk about what has brought people to the US border and again to continue to address the root causes that cause people to leave and often flee their home country,” Harris said after arriving on Friday morning.
Harris is accompanied on the trip by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin and Democratic Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar.
The visit to El Paso comes amid a smattering of criticism that’s followed Harris since being tasked by President Joe Biden with leading diplomatic efforts in the Northern Triangle to address immigration.
Harris endured a rocky first foreign trip — her two-day swing through Mexico and Guatemala — with sources telling CNN at the time that the trip left some officials perplexed about her bumpy answers to questions about whether she will go to the border.
“At some point, you know, we are going to the border,” Harris said in an interview with NBC News while on the Central America trip. “We’ve been to the border. So this whole, this whole, this whole thing about the border. We’ve been to the border. We’ve been to the border.”
But when pressed on the fact that she still had not visited the border, Harris responded, “… and I haven’t been to Europe. And I mean, I don’t — I don’t understand the point that you’re making,” Harris said with a laugh, adding, “I’m not discounting the importance of the border.”
That answer only intensified GOP criticism of her absence at the border.
Asked on Friday why now was the right time to come to the border, Harris said it was important she visit Guatemala and Mexico before visiting the border to build off of those meetings addressing the root causes of migration.
“Being in Guatemala, being in Mexico, and talking with Mexico as a partner, frankly on the issue, was about addressing the causes. And then coming to the border at the advice and actually the invitation of the congresswoman, is about looking at the effects of what we have seen happening in Central America, and so I’m glad to be here. This was always the plan to come here,” she said.
When asked if the border trip was essentially the administration bowing down to pressure from Republicans, Harris’ chief spokesperson, Symone Sanders, told reporters on a call Thursday evening that “this administration does not take th
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