Today, Vice President Harris concludes her visit to Mexico and Guatemala, discussing the root causes of illegal immigration to the United States. Her visit comes on the heels of another month (May) of historic illegal apprehensions at our southwest border. For the third straight month, illegal apprehensions are over 170,000 and continue to rise. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on this crisis facing the American people, the Vice President has decided to engage in international diplomacy on issues that will not be solved for years, or perhaps decades to come.

Here are some additional thoughts on her trip:

First, discussing security and prosperity in Central America is not without merit. As Acting Secretary, I traveled to the region on numerous occasions to discuss these issues, but only after we had tackled the security issue. Simply talking about the root causes of illegal immigration in a vacuum is a losing endeavor. The Biden Administration must address border security as well as interior enforcement of our immigration laws. Right now, the only things they are serious about are conversations and photo ops with foreign leaders. 

Second, this visit should have occurred much earlier. It has been over 75 days since President Biden tapped Vice President Harris to address the illegal immigration crisis. While it takes time to organize international trips, there are several actions the Vice President could have taken and locations (here in the U.S.) she could have visited to show leadership on this issue. 

Third, this visit should have been preceded by a visit to the southwest border. There, Vice President Harris could hear directly from the foreign nationals she encountered on why they are making the journey. She could have heard firsthand what the root causes of illegal immigration are for these individuals. But more importantly, her visit shows support to the law enforcement officers, both at the federal and state level, who are dealing with the largest crisis in over 2 decades.

Fourth, the messaging from the current administration is confusing (at best) and intentionally misleading (at worst).  While in Guatemala, the Vice President held a press conference and pushed a direct message to foreign nationals thinking about making the journey to the United States: “Do not come, do not come.” Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite message that the Biden Administration was pushing in March when they said: “We are not saying ‘don’t come,’ we are saying ‘don’t come now,’ because we will be able to deliver a safe and orderly process to them as quickly as possible.” The apparent flip flop comes too late into this crisis to make a difference and is not backed up by the reality on the border. 

According to almost any poll on this topic, the Biden Administration has lost the confidence of the American people.  But they have also lost the confidence of the Department of Homeland Security law enforcement, and that is a dangerous precedent to set. The administration needs to attempt to right the ship by taking some concrete steps: (a) acknowledge their messaging and policies are responsible for this crisis, (b) announce a series of enforcement-related measures at the border designed to stop the illegal behavior and curb the profits of the cartels, (c ) allow ICE law enforcement officers to do their job and remove individuals who do not have a legal right to be in the U.S. and (d) visit the border! 

These steps alone will not get us out of this crisis, but they would go a long way toward putting us on the right path.

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