‘They have to understand’: Cuellar urges Biden, Harris to visit southern border

“Somebody needs to listen to our local communities,” he added. “With all due respect, just coming and doing a staged visit is not enough. They have to understand.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Cuellar’s invitation.

The comments from the congressman, whose district at the southern tip of Texas borders Mexico, come as Harris concludes her first trip overseas since assuming office: a two-nation visit to Guatemala and Mexico focused on addressing the root causes of the increase in migrants.

The vice president’s public statements while traveling have provoked anger from progressive Democrats, who denounced Harris’ message to migrants this week as unduly harsh. “Do not come. Do not come,” Harris said at a news conference in Guatemala City on Monday.

Meanwhile, Republicans have attacked Harris over an interview with NBC News that aired on Tuesday, during which she sidestepped questions about having not yet visited the southern border. “I haven’t been to Europe. … I don’t understand the point that you’re making. I’m not discounting the importance of the border,” she said at one point in the exchange.

But Cuellar on Thursday praised the vice president’s posture on the trip, offering a respite from the more moderate corner of her party as the White House contends with the political fallout from Harris’ remarks.

“I want to thank the vice president for having a clear message: ‘Don’t come,’” Cuellar said. “But we need to couple that with some action and some repercussions.”

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield also defended Harris on Thursday, dismissing a CNN report that administration officials were perplexed by the vice president’s answers about the border.

“I’d say she’s done a tremendous job already on this incredibly difficult portfolio, this incredibly important task that the president gave her,” Bedingfield told CNN, adding: “The work she’s doing already on this important diplomatic assignment is already making a difference.”

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