Biden walks along US-Mexico border on trip to Texas

Washington — President Biden visited the US-Mexico border on Sunday, his first trip there as president after two years of hounding by Republicans who hammered him as soft on border security while the number of migrants crossed spirals.

In El Paso, TX, Mr. Biden visited a center for migrants and walked along a stretch of the border wall. He was accompanied by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, several Democratic congressmen from the area, the mayor of El Paso and several local charity leaders.

Mr. Biden was greeted upon his arrival by Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who delivered a letter to Mr. Biden that Abbott said outlined five ways to resolve the border crisis. Abbott, who called on Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to come to the border, told reporters he thought it was “this was the president’s first visit to the border, after being in office for two years, it’s amazing”. and astonishing, and outrageous.”

El Paso, located on the southwest edge of Texas, is currently the largest corridor of illegal crossings, due in large part to Nicaraguans fleeing repression, crime and poverty in their country. They are among migrants from four countries who are now subject to rapid deportation under new rules enacted by the Biden administration last week.

The president was due to meet with border officials to discuss migration as well as the increased trafficking of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, which are driving the number of overdoses in the United States skyrocketing.

Biden Border
President Joe Biden talks with Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, second from left, as they walk along a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is on the right.

Andrew Harnik/AP

“The president is very excited to see for himself what the state of border security looks like,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby said ahead of Biden’s arrival. . “It’s something he wanted to see for himself.”

Mr. Biden’s announcement on border security and his visit to the border are intended in part to drown out political noise and lessen the impact of upcoming immigration investigations promised by House Republicans. But any lasting solution will require action from the sharply divided Congress, where multiple efforts to pass sweeping changes have failed in recent years.

“All of these executive branch efforts are really just temporary band-aids, whether it’s Title 8, whether it’s Title 42, if we’re going to make sure Congress acts,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat. from Texas who joins Mr. Biden in El Paso, said “Facing the nation”.

Escobar said she had “hit a brick wall” from Republicans and Democrats trying to implement legislative changes to address border issues.

“The executive is not the only branch of government that needs to do its job,” she said.

Republican sensitivities Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas praised Mr Biden’s decision to visit the border, and even that was remarkable in the current political climate.

“He has to take the time to learn from some of the experts I rely on the most, including local officials and law enforcement, landowners, non-profit organizations, customs officials and officers. and protection of America’s borders, and the people who make a living in border communities on the front lines of its crisis,” Cornyn said.

Texas National Guard soldiers stand guard at the US-Mexico border January 7, 2023, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Texas National Guard soldiers stand guard at the US-Mexico border January 7, 2023, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

John Moore/Getty Images

From Texas, Biden traveled south to Mexico City, where he and the leaders of Mexico and Canada will meet Monday and Tuesday for a summit of North American leaders. Immigration is one of the items on the agenda. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador met Biden at the airport Sunday evening and joined him in the presidential limo for the ride to Biden’s hotel.

In El Paso, where migrants congregate at bus stops and parks before continuing their journey, Border Patrol agents stepped up security ahead of the president’s visit.

“I think they’re trying to send a message that they’re going to check people’s documented status more consistently, and if you haven’t been treated, they’ll come looking for you,” said the band’s Ruben Garcia. help Annunciation House in El Paso.

Migrants and asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution have increasingly found that protections in the United States are primarily available to those who have money or are savvy about finding someone to carry. guarantor for them financially.

Jose Natera, a Venezuelan migrant in El Paso who hopes to seek asylum in Canada, said he had no prospect of finding an American sponsor and was now hesitant to seek asylum in the United States because he was afraid of being sent to Mexico.

Mexico “is a terrible country where there is crime, corruption, cartels and even the police persecute you,” he said. “They say people who think they come in illegally won’t have a chance, but at the same time I don’t have a sponsor. … I came to this country to work. I didn’t come here to play.”

The number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border has dramatically increased during Mr. Biden’s first two years in office. There were more than 2.38 million shutdowns in the year ending September 30, the first time the number topped 2 million. The administration has struggled to crack down on the crossings, reluctant to take sweeping steps akin to those of the Trump administration.

Politics change announced last week are Mr. Biden’s largest initiative yet to contain illegal border crossings and will turn back tens of thousands of migrants arriving at the border. At the same time, 30,000 migrants a month from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela will be able to come to the United States legally as long as they travel by plane, obtain a sponsor and pass security checks. antecedents.

The United States will also refuse migrants who do not first seek asylum in a country they passed through en route to the United States.

The Biden administration will allow migrants from central and northern Mexico to make an appointment to apply for asylum at a U.S. port of entry through a cellphone app, CBP One.

Escobar, a congresswoman from Texas, said most migrants fleeing their home countries have cellphones because that’s how they communicate with each other and family back home, but she called d ‘other aspects of the US government to take more action.

“We need a much stronger involvement from the State Department, especially for those who don’t have access to this type of technology. We need a much more education,” she said. declared. “A lot of refugees I’ve spoken to, especially in the last two weeks, have no idea what the asylum process is. Their idea is that I’m going to go to the border, I’m going to find a job. And I’m going to help my family, which we would all do, of course. So there’s a lot of work to do.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters aboard Air Force One that the administration was trying to “encourage a safe and orderly manner and weed out contraband organizations,” saying policies n were “not a ban at all”, but an attempt to protect migrants from the trauma that smuggling can create.

The changes announced by the president have been welcomed by some, especially leaders of towns where migrants have amassed. But Mr Biden has been excoriated by immigrant advocacy groups, who have accused him of taking steps modeled on those of the former president.

“I don’t agree with comparing us to Donald Trump,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, pointing to some of his most maligned policies, including separation migrant children from their parents.

“It’s not that president,” she said.

For all of his international travels in his 50 years of public service, Mr. Biden has not spent much time at the US-Mexico border.

The only visit the White House could point to was his conduct at the border while campaigning for president in 2008. He sent Vice President Kamala Harris to El Paso in 2021, but she was criticized for widely bypassed the action, as El Paso was not the crossing center that it is now.

President Barack Obama took a trip to El Paso in 2011, where he visited border operations and the international bridge at Paso Del Norte, but was later criticized for not returning when tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors accompanied entered the United States from Mexico.

Trump, who has made tougher immigration a signature issue, has visited the border several times. During one visit, he crowded into a small border post to inspect cash and medicine confiscated by officers. On a trip to McAllen, Texas, then at the center of a growing crisis, he made one of his most repeated claims that Mexico would pay to build a border wall.

American taxpayers ended up footing the bill after Mexican leaders flatly rejected the idea.

“NO,” tweeted Enrique Peña Nieto, then President of Mexico, in May 2018. “Mexico will NEVER pay for a wall. Not now, never. Sincerely, Mexico (all of us).”

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