MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday defended herself from Republican critics who criticized her for making her first international trip to Mexico and Guatemala instead of visiting the U.S. border with Mexico, saying she has visited the border and will do so again.
After meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico City, Harris told reporters she had “been to the border before and will go again.”
Harris, who was a U.S. Senator from California starting in 2017 and traveled the country running for president in 2020, did not specify when she last visited the border.
President Joe Biden has asked her to work on reducing the number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. She has said her main focus is on root causes, as well as acute causes, of migration. She also visited Guatemala on her first trip abroad since taking office.
Some Republican lawmakers have called on Harris to instead get a first-hand look at the border, where migration has reached its highest levels in 20 years and where they say help is urgently needed.
Harris, who has not made a trip to the border since becoming vice president, did not say when she might visit.
She defended her choice to make the visits south of the border in response to repeated questions from reporters, underscoring the Biden administration’s push to tackle deeper reasons for migration from Central America.
“You can’t say you care about the border without caring about the root causes,” Harris said.
However, she also described the situation at the U.S. southern border as a “legitimate, correct” concern.
Harris noted U.S.-Mexico cooperation over border security includes “the work of processing migration within the country of Mexico and its southern border.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also said she did not have a timeline for a potential trip, but emphasized Harris’ job was to focus on the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
“Her assignment was to work with countries and leaders in the Northern Triangle to address root causes, address corruption, and sure, we’re working together to address humanitarian concerns,” Psaki told reporters at the White House.
“We’re not taking advice from former President Trump or most of the Republicans who are criticizing us on this,” Psaki added.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio)