By Todd Bensman on June 15, 2021
The steeply mounting pressure for her to visit the southern border may finally prove too much for Vice President Kamala Harris. It’s looking like she’ll actually have to go now, even if dragged kicking, screaming, and fibbing to NBC’s Lester Holt.
“At some point, you know, we are going to the border,” Harris blustered when Holt kept pressing her on the matter, then the lie that: “We’ve been to the border. So this whole, this whole, this whole thing about the border. We’ve been to the border.”
Which Holt felt obliged to correct: “You haven’t been to the border.”
But Republicans and security hawks salivating over visions that Harris will soon enough lead a national press corps delegation down to see the actual historic mass migration happen — the crisis the Biden administration wrought with words before taking office and with action ever since — should tamp down expectations.
Chances are that the reluctant “root causes czar” will entirely avoid traveling to the southern sectors of Texas, where she and her press corps would readily see some of the tens of thousands of foreign families and children coming in each month, all day and night. In certain areas from Del Rio to Brownsville, Texas, for instance, waves of family units and unaccompanied children cross the Rio Grande constantly (all of it at the Biden administration’s explicit “leave-no-child-in-Mexico” invitation) and turn themselves in to anyone wearing a uniform. If Harris were authentic, she would go to, say, Roma, to watch amphibious raft landings happen in plain view all night, any day of the week as did the Center for Immigration Studies on a recent trip there.
But instead, the administration’s press handlers are no doubt already hard at work trying to figure out how to avoid the prospect that illegally crossing immigrants and Harris will end up in the same frame. Conceivably, Harris could go to south Texas after having the Mexican military clear out the other side until she’s gone, Harris being the vice president and able to get that sort of thing done. But an outdoor drive or walk anywhere in south Texas is an unnecessary political risk because, in addition to immigrants behind almost every bush, there are ranchers, residents, local police, and sheriffs lurking around whose lives have been completely turned upside down by the crisis.
The safe money is that Harris will entirely avoid south Texas, unless to pose with a cute child migrant or gratefully weeping mother inside a tightly controlled interior environment.
There are plenty of politically safer places on the long U.S.-Mexico border. Keep in mind that every sector of the 1,954-mile long southern border features unique geographies that shape illegal immigration patterns and demographics. The crisis unfolds out of sight in many places, manifested in historic surges of single adults who are not likely to be visible.
Because they are still being turned back to Mexico under a Trump-era pandemic containment measure, the single adults constantly coursing into the country tend to run, hide, and evade — often in the dead of night — throughout the rugged Big Bend region and also in Arizona. In this kind of illegal immigration, the immigrants and their smugglers work hard not to be seen and won’t be unless the vice president and the press gaggle set up with night vision goggles in remote arroyos and canyonlands.
One quiet kind of spot that will be ruled out are areas where Donald Trump’s border walls are standing. The areas are now very quiet other than the most furtive instances of drug trafficking, according to Border Patrol agents who work in those areas, the truest experts on that matter. Showing up with cameras in an area quieted by Trump’s border wall would showcase an effectiveness that is far too contrary to Biden party line. So forget that.
Harris will be able to check the box by, say, helicoptering over an empty stretch of Arizona desert or be seen walking or driving along the border where all the illegal immigrants are hiding or have been cleared out ahead of time.
For the party faithful, gullible and illegal immigration advocates, she could also get away with conducting a press briefing inside a Border Patrol facility that has been largely emptied of its families and children by their transfers to federal Health and Human Services facilities, and designated hotels and convention centers in big cities like Dallas, Phoenix, and Los Angeles (a move-the-migrant shell game the administration has disingenuously portrayed to the gullible and ill-informed as a major policy success). But showing up in a facility emptied in that way — or maybe even with a vetted “grateful” immigrant family — would provide Harris with a means to check the box with some artful spin.
However the visit pans out, Republicans and border hawks demanding it need to readjust their grand “gotcha” expectations for a Harris visit.
The White House will find plenty of ways to lead an equally reluctant national press corps to almost any other spot but those where they can most easily observe the nation’s border control systems collapsing.