Harris’ decision to visit El Paso not uncommon among national leaders, political expert says


Vice President Kamala Harris in Pittsburgh, June 21, 2021 (Nexstar)

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — As Vice President Kamala Harris is set to visit El Paso on Friday, some are questioning her choice to visit El Paso instead of the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, which has seen a larger number of migrants crossing the border compared to El Paso.

Richard Pineda, director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso, said the decision is not an uncommon one, as El Paso is a natural choice for national leaders who want to speak about immigration.

“President Obama came to El Paso during his term to use this as a place to talk about a shift in immigration policy,” Pineda said. “President George W. Bush, not very far from where we’re at toured in the motorcade along the levy when he came to visit.”

Pineda said immigration policy in America has become political theater but says he does think it’s important to have the vice president in El Paso to assess the situation.

“I think when the vice president touches down tomorrow, her presence is going to be important,” Pineda said. “But I think it’s going to take us some time to actually see the impact — positive or negative — that her visit has for the Borderland.”

The announcement of Harris’ visit comes after Gov. Abbott and former President Trump said they will be visiting the U.S.-Mexico border at the end of June.

“The fact that it’s timed within a week of Gov. Abbott and former President Trump somewhere along the U.S.-Mexico border I think is a little bit about a political serendipity, but I think both sides are going to use the timing of the visit to their advantage,” he said.

Abbott and Trump plan to visit Edinburg, located north of McAllen, on June 30 for a town hall meeting to be hosted by Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity.

The El Paso Republican Party said they don’t believe Harris would be coming to the border if it wasn’t for Abbott’s plans, questioning the vice president’s choice in coming to El Paso.

“I was surprised that she was going to come to El Paso because El Paso is not suffering the impact that the Lower Rio Grande Valley is,” said Bob Peña, manager of the El Paso Republican Party.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, told KTSM 9 News that she invited the vice president to visit El Paso.

“My invitation to the Vice President occurred before anybody knew that Donald Trump was coming to Texas so we’ve been working with the White House long before anything was announced by the White House,” said Escobar, who will be traveling with Harris from Washington to El Paso.

KTSM has learned that Harris would be touring a processing facility and meeting with migrant advocates, though the details of those visits are unclear. Escobar said she’s advocating for her meetings and stops to be balanced.

“We don’t have the final details yet, but we have been advocating that there be a balance of actually talking to migrants as well as law enforcement as well as the advocates,” she said.

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