Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) on Friday referred to El Paso, Texas, as “the new Ellis Island” when she accompanied Vice President Kamala Harris on her visit to the border city.
“Welcome to El Paso, welcome to my community, to the new Ellis Island, to the capital of the border,” said Escobar, who represents Texas’ 16th Congressional District, which includes El Paso.
“I am standing before you with a heart full of gratitude,” Escobar gushed to Harris. “Madame Vice President, thank you for being here.” She went on to thank Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) for being there, as well.
“We finally have an administration willing to tackle the big challenges, challenges that our country has dealt with for decades — willing to tackle challenges in a meaningful, thoughtful, strategic, compassionate way,” Escobar continued. “And that means starting with root causes and understanding what’s driving people from their home, what’s making them arrive at our nation’s front door.”
“And El Paso’s front door is one that has always been one of dignity and humanity and compassion. And so I look forward to today and everything that we will all learn and explore together,” she added.
This Texas Congresswoman is very excited about El Paso being "the new Ellis Island" pic.twitter.com/DTkKhBFDh5
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) June 25, 2021
At the turn of the 20th century, strict precautions were in place at Ellis Island to ensure no immigrant was permitted to enter the country if they were physically or mentally unwell, or if they were likely to become a burden on society. As The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported about Ellis Island in 1896:
The greatest vigilance is exercised to protect our country from the importation of the insane, those suffering from contagious diseases and all those who, from injuries, physical defects or other causes, are liable to become public charges.
A thorough record is kept of each immigrant and his destination, for the country assumes responsibility for him for one year after he has landed. He must show that he is not liable to become a public charge. … Those immigrants liable to become public charges are at once returned to the port whence they came at the expense of the Southern Steamship company.
Harris visited the U.S.-Mexico border Friday after months-long criticism for having not gone, even after President Joe Biden put her in charge of the border crisis response in March. Speaking to reporters after arriving in El Paso, Harris said, “I’m glad to be here. It was always the plan to come here, and I think we’re gonna have a good, productive day.”
Former President Donald Trump is slated to make an appearance on the border next week, accompanied by Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
“I have accepted the invitation of Texas Governor Greg Abbott to join him on an official visit to our Nation’s decimated Southern Border on Wednesday, June 30, 2021,” Trump said in a statement. “The Biden Administration inherited from me the strongest, safest, and most secure border in U.S. history and in mere weeks they turned it into the single worst border crisis in U.S. history. It’s an unmitigated disaster zone.”
Related: Kamala Harris Visits U.S.-Mexico Border, Says It ‘Was Always The Plan’ To Go