Biden faces his border problem
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President Biden will make his first trip to the southern border since taking office on Sunday and will address immigration head-on as it threatens to become a growing concern for him and his administration.
Biden had resisted the trip despite months of pressure from Republicans and even some Democrats to do more to stem the flow of migrants at the US-Mexico border.
His trip to El Paso underscores the humanitarian and political issues the situation poses for the Biden administration as it deals with a GOP House majority aimed at highlighting the border crisis and an upcoming 2024 campaign which the Republican candidate will likely increase immigration.
“It’s clear that immigration is a political issue that extreme Republicans will always attack,” Biden said Thursday at the White House. “But now they have a choice: they can continue to use immigration to try and gain political points, or they can help solve the problem. You can help solve the problem and come together to fix the broken system.”
The White House this week unveiled a series of measures aimed at bringing the number of migrants entering the United States under control while using Biden’s upcoming trip to show they take the matter seriously.
The government said Thursday that people from Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Haiti would be barred from seeking asylum if they crossed the US-Mexico border without a permit. Officials also said they would propose a rule barring migrants from seeking asylum in the US unless they first seek protection in a country they passed through en route to the southern border.
And border officials will continue to enforce Title 42, a Trump-era policy that has been used for nearly three years to quickly expel migrants under the guise of a public health measure. Immigration advocates have criticized Biden’s continued use of the policy as inhumane and viewed it as a migration tool disguised as a public health measure. The Supreme Court will review its legality in the coming months.
Biden himself will visit the border on a trip to El Paso on Sunday. He will meet with frontline officials to learn more about the migrants’ situation and what more can be done to block the flow of fentanyl and other drugs across the border.
The President will travel from Texas to Mexico for a two-day summit with North American leaders where migration issues are among the main issues expected to be discussed.
“This was one of the biggest attacks by Republicans. ‘You haven’t even been to the border, you haven’t seen what happened,'” former White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on MSNBC. “He was vocal in saying it was a problem, it was outdated, it was broken, we had to fix it. So he came up with a plan on his very first day. This allows him to say: “I was on the edge, I came up with a plan. What’s in your closet, what do you fancy?’”
Republicans have spent months urging Biden to visit the border, step up images of migrant groups entering the United States and highlight border security data showing nearly 234,000 migrants were arrested along the southern border in November 2022, the highest number on record was recorded for the month November.
The GOP-controlled House is in a state of disarray as Republicans struggle to elect a speaker, which in turn has delayed member swearing-in and committee formation.
But once the dust settles in the House of Representatives, lawmakers have indicated that immigration will be a focus of their oversight powers. Some in the party have even raised the possibility of indicting Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas over the surge in migrants that has strained resources in communities along the border and across the country.
Even some Democratic leaders, like New York City Mayor Eric Adams, have at times complained about the influx of migrants into their cities and states, arguing they don’t have the resources to care for the large numbers of people moving there arriving in the United States
The at-times bipartisan criticism of Biden’s border policy underscores a potential policy vulnerability that the eventual Republican presidential nominee of 2024 could seek to exploit. Some potential Biden opponents had a head start on the matter this week.
Former President Trump, the only declared Republican in the 2024 field, released a video Thursday outlining his plan to “wage war” on drug cartels in Mexico and crack down on the flow of drugs across the border. The plan includes proposals to send military assets to go after cartel leaders and to ask Congress to pass legislation that would mandatorily impose the death penalty on drug smugglers and people traffickers.
“Biden’s open borders policy is a deadly betrayal of our nation,” Trump said in the recorded statement. “When I am President, the policy of the United States will be to bring down the cartels, just as we defeated ISIS and the ISIS Caliphate, and as opposed to the situation we are in today, we are one had very strong border.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who has emerged as Trump’s most formidable potential challenger for the party’s presidential nomination, used his inaugural speech this week to attack Biden without naming him for his immigration policies.
The federal government “has ruthlessly facilitated open borders, flouted the rule of law, allowed massive amounts of drugs into our states, imported criminal aliens and greenlit the influx of millions of illegal aliens into our country, straining communities and taxpayers across the country ‘ DeSantis said in prepared remarks.
The Florida governor made headlines last year when he arranged to fly migrants who had crossed the southern border to Martha’s Vineyard, a liberal sanctuary that has said it will not report those in the state illegally .
While Biden’s actions this week may shield him from criticism for not addressing the border, he has acknowledged it is an imperfect solution that will not satisfy everyone. Numerous humanitarian groups have already criticized Biden’s actions for making it harder for those fleeing violence to find safe haven and accused him of duplicating Trump-era politics.
Sens. Bob Menendez (DN.J.), Ben Ray Luján (DN.M.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (DN.J.) issued a joint statement Friday expressing their Expressing frustration with the new, Biden’s policies argued “it will increase border crossings over time and further enrich people-smuggling networks.”
Immigration has been one of the most vexing issues for Congress in recent years, as Democrats and Republicans failed to reach an agreement on how to both fund border security and deal with the influx of migrants into the country.
The Hispanic caucus was divided between anger and lukewarm reception of Biden’s new border plan. Greene boasts of calling Trump during speaker election
Still, the White House has repeatedly backed down from Congress when confronted with the number of southern border crossings, arguing it’s up to lawmakers to overhaul a broken system.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Biden reiterated that immigration policy will be a long-term problem, not a short-term solution.
“I will sit down with anyone who, in good faith, wants to fix our broken immigration system. And it’s hard. It’s difficult in the best of circumstances,” Biden said. “But if the most extreme Republicans continue to demagogue this problem and reject solutions, I have only one choice: to act on my own, to do as much as I can on my own to try to change the atmosphere.”