Harris planning first trip abroad to Mexico, Guatemala

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Vice President Kamala Harrisspeaks at a virtual meeting with outside national security experts in Vice President's ceremonial office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON – Vice President Kamala Harris announced plans Wednesday to visit Mexico and Guatemala on what would be her first official trip abroad, as she pushes ahead on leading the White House's diplomatic efforts on the migration challenge at the southern border. She also held a virtual briefing with regional experts on potential solutions to the sharp increase in migrants.

But she still has no plans to visit the border, a decision that is fueling Republican criticism that the Biden administration’s response remains inadequate and unserious even as jarring photos of minors held in overcrowded detention centers draw fresh attention to the problem.

The White House said Wednesday that President Joe Biden had no plans to visit either.

Rep. Steve Scalise, the House Republican whip, accused Harris of avoiding the border out of political considerations.

“President Biden puts Kamala Harris in charge of it, and she refuses to go down, because she doesn't want to be associated with this disgraceful policy," he said at a press conference Wednesday morning.

Harris emphasized Wednesday that she was given the job of dealing with the root causes of migration to the U.S., while Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was tasked with tackling the increase in migration at the border.

Harris said if those root causes are not addressed, “we are just in a perpetual system of only dealing with the symptoms.”

Mayorkas visited the border last month, and Biden has dispatched a number of other top aides to evaluate the situation there.