Biden will visit the US-Mexico border for the first time as president
(CNN) — US President Joe Biden is heading to the US-Mexico border this Sunday after major political announcements and relentless calls from Republicans who believe the trip should have happened sooner.
The border trip — Biden’s first since taking office — comes as the administration grapples with growing numbers of immigrants, straining federal and local resources. Republicans, some border district Democrats in Congress and even Democratic mayors have criticized Biden for failing to address record border crossing levels.
With his visit to El Paso, Texas, this Sunday, Biden will build on an issue that has been a political liability for his administration, while calling on Congress to overhaul the US immigration system to meet current needs.
But the patchwork of policies implemented by the administration to manage the border so far has often put Biden at odds with his own allies who argue that the administration’s approach is too strict.
“It is outrageous and sad to see a Democratic administration make it difficult for vulnerable people to seek asylum because they are afraid of angry MAGA voters on this issue,” a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus told CNN, in response to the latest policy announcements. .
In a preview of the trip, a White House official said the president “will meet with federal, state and local officials and community leaders who have been critical partners in managing the new immigration challenge affecting the entire Western Hemisphere with a record number of people fleeing political oppression and gang violence in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti and Cuba.” The president plans to spend about three hours on the ground.
Biden will assess border control operations, touring the Bridge of the Americas Port of Entry alongside Customs and Border Protection officials, members of Congress, and local and law enforcement officials.
The White House said it is the busiest port in El Paso and received $600 million under the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Biden will then visit the El Paso County Migrant Services Center to meet with local officials, faith leaders and non-governmental organizations “who have been instrumental in supporting migrants fleeing political oppression and economic collapse in their countries.” originally”.
The official said the president will also spend time with local business leaders to hear about the economic impact of migration in the region and the shortage of workers.
The president will be joined by the Secretary of National Security, Alejandro Mayorkas; Texas representatives Verónica Escobar, Henry Cuéllar and Vicente González, all Democrats; El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser; El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego; and additional community and business leaders.
The movement across the Western Hemisphere has posed an urgent challenge for Biden, who in his first months in office faced a surge of unaccompanied migrant children at the border and, later, the abrupt arrival of thousands of Haitian migrants.
Since 2021, there have been more than 2.4 million arrests along the US-Mexico border, according to data from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). That includes people who have tried to cross more than once. Many have also been turned away under a Trump administration restriction known as Title 42 that allows federal authorities to expel migrants quickly, citing the Covid-19 pandemic.
The arrival of thousands of migrants has strained border communities, including El Paso. The city recently began seeing record levels of immigrant arrivals beginning a few weeks ago, when anxiety over the scheduled end of Title 42 led thousands of immigrants to turn themselves in to border authorities or cross into the United States illegally in a period very short.
The policy was scheduled to be lifted last month, but a Supreme Court ruling kept the rule in place while legal challenges are resolved in the courts.
Biden said he wanted to wait until he knew the outcome of Title 42 legal machinations before traveling to the border and accused Republicans who were asking him to travel there of engaging in political gamesmanship.
“They haven’t taken this seriously at all,” he said.
Escobar, who represents El Paso, said in a tweet that she is “thrilled” to welcome Biden to the city. While she didn’t place much emphasis on Biden visiting the border, she made it clear that she has welcomed him in recent weeks and urged the federal government to provide assistance to the city.
John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator, said the president hopes to see firsthand the situation at the border before the North American Leaders Summit in Mexico City.
“The President is looking forward to seeing for himself what the border security situation is like, particularly in El Paso. He is also very interested in speaking with the Customs and Border Patrol agents on the ground who are actually involved in this mission to get their first-hand perspectives,” Kirby told reporters on Friday.
Ahead of Biden’s border visit, the administration also announced plans to expand the policy to include Haitians, Nicaraguans and Cubans while it remains in effect. Until now, Title 42 has largely applied to migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Venezuela.
Biden’s announcements Thursday reflect the administration’s effort to prepare for the end of Title 42, along with implementing programs to manage the surge of immigrants.
The administration will now accept up to 30,000 migrants a month from Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti and Venezuela under a humanitarian parole program targeting those nationalities. Those who do not come to the United States under that program can be removed to Mexico under Title 42.
The announcement drew criticism from immigrant advocates and Democrats who argued that the policies will endanger immigrants seeking asylum.
“The expansion of Title 42 to include Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans is a broken promise,” Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Border Institute, said in a statement. Hope Border Institute has helped migrants who have arrived in El Paso.
“Border communities will continue to work hard to pick up the broken pieces of our nation’s immigration system and demonstrate that our future lies not in removal and deportation, but in humanity and hope,” he added.
Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus questioned top Biden officials, including Mayorkas, about recently announced border policies in a call Thursday, according to two sources present.
Members were surprised by the new policies and frustrated by the lack of commitment before their implementation, the sources said.
“It was really heated,” a source said, adding that members were “angry” that the government did not consult them in advance. The call included officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the White House.
One of the sources of tension during the call was a new asylum regulation that could prohibit migrants seeking asylum in the United States from doing so if they pass through another country on their way to the US-Mexico border. The restrictions are reminiscent of limits put in place during the Trump administration, though officials have rejected the comparison.
CNN’s Jasmine Wright contributed to this report