Vice President Kamala Harris said Friday she has no plans to visit the US-Mexico border region anytime soon — as US Customs and Border Protection announced that a record number of illegal immigrants had been detained over the previous 12 months.
“I don’t have any [plans] at this moment, no,” Harris told reporters as she left an event in the Bronx Friday afternoon. The veep had been asked if she intended to visit the border before the end of this year.
The feds reported CBP has detained 1,734,686 illegal immigrants attempting to enter the US via the southwest border in fiscal year 2021, which ended Sept. 30 — the most on record.
There were 192,001 migrant encounters in September, an 8.5 percent decline from the 209,840 arrests reported in August and a 10.1 percent drop from the 12-month high of 213,593 arrests recorded in July. It is still the third-highest number of monthly stops since October of last year.
In fiscal year 2000, which began in October 1999 and ended on Sept. 30, 2000, CBP reported 1,643,679 migrant stops at the frontier. That had been the highest confirmed number before this year. The last time border encounters topped 1 million was in fiscal year 2006, when border authorities collared 1,071,972 migrants.
In fiscal year 2019, the last reporting period before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, CBP recorded 851,508 encounters, fewer than half the number of migrants its officers stopped over the previous 12 months.
President Biden announced in March of this year that Harris would take the lead in the administration’s talks with Mexico and Central American countries about slowing the tide of migration. However, with the exception of a rocky visit to Mexico and Guatemala in early June and a brief trip to El Paso at the end of the same month, Harris has receded into the background on the issue.
Just two weeks ago — while Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas met with Mexican officials about the border — Harris was in New Jersey to push Biden’s spending agenda, stopping to pick up some baked goods in Newark along the way.
Biden campaigned for president on reversing Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, including reversing the “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum-seekers and stopping construction of a border wall.
Republicans, along with Central American leaders, say such promises led directly to a rise in attempted border crossings. CBP data shows arrests nudged above the 100,000 per month mark in February and kept climbing. July and August marked the first time since February and March of 2000 that more than 200,000 migrants were detained in consecutive months.
Meanwhile, a Texas federal judge ruled in August that the Biden administration had improperly wound up the “Remain in Mexico” program, forcing the Department of Homeland Security to re-implement it while officials work on crafting a court-compliant justification for shutting the program down.
During a CNN town hall Thursday night, Biden told moderator Anderson Cooper that he had been to the border before and “I guess I should go down, but the whole point of it is I haven’t had a whole hell of a lot of time to get down.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that Biden “did drive through the border when he was on the campaign trail in 2008” after Fox News recently reported it had been unable to find evidence he had visited the area.