After weeks of sustained pressure from House and Senate Republicans, governors, Democratic members of Congress, and groups like FAIR, Vice President Kamala Harris finally decided to make an appearance at the Southwest border. She visited El Paso, stopping only briefly for a photo opportunity at the port of entry before meeting with nonprofits and legal service providers.
El Paso’s Democratic congresswoman, Veronica Escobar (TX-16), joined Harris on the airport runway for a press conference. Rep. Escobar cheerfully began by saying, “welcome to my community, to the new Ellis Island, to the capital of the border.” Rep. Escobar’s comments shed light on the sentiment that some legislators share: the crisis is not that so many are coming illegally, but rather that they are not let in fast enough.
Rep. Escobar’s comments also undercut the White House’s own narrative surrounding the still-deteriorating situation at the border. In late May, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told the House Appropriations Committee that the “border is closed.” Vice President Harris, in her visit to Guatemala, told potential migrants “I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking of making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border. Do not come. Do not come… and I believe if you come to our border, you will be turned back.”
A fellow Texas member of Congress, Rep. Lance Gooden (R-05), contrasted Harris’ remarks in Guatemala to Rep. Escobar’s declaration on the tarmac, suggesting that Democrats are sending mixed messages. It is a fair accusation. At the same time that Secretary Mayorkas and Vice President Harris tell the cameras that the border remains closed, the administration has done everything in its power to roll back Trump-era restrictions that prevented fraudulent asylum seekers and illegal aliens from entering the United States.
They dismantled the successful safe-third-country asylum agreements with the northern triangle countries, ended the Migrant Protection Protocols, attempted to freeze ICE removals, ended Congressionally-appropriated border wall construction, and have teed up scores of regulatory action to make it easier for asylum-seeking aliens to enter the United States and establish roots in this country before they even appear before an immigration judge.
To characterize the El Paso port of entry as the new Ellis Island – where 12 million immigrants passed through between 1892 and 1954 – is probably the most honest thing that Rep. Escobar could have said. It is certainly more honest than Vice President Harris and DHS Secretary Mayorkas claiming that the border is closed. Rep. Escobar simply made the mistake of saying the quiet part out loud – to many politicians, what is happening at the Southwest border is a good thing.