Biden inspects the US-Mexico border in the face of criticism from the Republican Party
EL PASO, Texas (AP) — President Joe Biden walked through a muddy stretch of the US-Mexico border. and inspected a busy port of entry on Sunday on his first trip to the region after two years in office, a visit overshadowed by tense immigration policy. as Republicans blame him for record number of immigrants cross into the country
At his first stop, the president watched as border officials in Step demonstrated how they search vehicles for drugs, money and other contraband. He then traveled to a dusty street lined with abandoned buildings and walked along a metal border fence that separated the US city from Ciudad Juárez.
Their last stop was the El Paso County Migrant Services Center, but there were no migrants in sight. When he heard about the services offered there, she asked an aid worker, “If I could wave the magic wand, what would I do?”
Biden’s nearly four-hour visit to El Paso was tightly controlled. He did not encounter any migrants except when his caravan passed the border and a dozen lined up on the Ciudad Juárez side. His visit did not include time at a Border Patrol station, where migrants who cross illegally are arrested and held before being released.
The visit seemed designed to showcase a smooth operation to process legal immigrants, weed out contraband smuggling, and treat those who entered illegally humanely, creating a counternarrative to Republican claims of a crisis situation tantamount to an open border. .
But his visit likely did little to assuage critics on both sides, including immigrant advocates who accuse him of setting callous policies not unlike those of his hardline predecessor, Donald Trump.
In a sign of the deepening tensions over immigration, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, handed Biden a letter as soon as he landed in the state that said the “chaos” at the border was a “direct result.” of the president’s decision. violation of federal laws. Biden later took the letter out of his jacket pocket during his tour, telling reporters: “I haven’t read it yet.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy dismissed Biden’s visit as a “photo op” and said on Twitter that the Republican majority would hold the administration accountable for creating the most dangerous border crisis in US history.
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego welcomed Biden’s visit but said the current lull in arrivals prevented the president from seeing how large the group of newcomers has been.
“He didn’t get to see the real difficulties,” said Samaniego, who was in the local delegation that greeted Biden. “It was good that he was here. It is a first step. But we still have to do more and spend more time with him.”
In other parts of El Paso where Biden did not visit, hundreds of migrants gathered in front of Sacred Heart Catholic Church Sunday, where they have been sleeping outdoors and receiving three meals a day from religious groups and other humanitarian organizations.
The migrants included several pregnant women, including Karla Sainz, 26, eight months old. She was traveling in a small group that included her 2-year-old son, Joshua. Sainz left her other three children in Venezuela with her mother.
“I would ask President Biden to help me with a permit or something so we can work and continue,” he said.
Juan Tovar, 32, one of several people in his group, suggested that he also had political reasons for leaving his home country.
“Socialism is the worst,” he said. “In Venezuela they kill us, they torture us, we cannot speak ill of the government. We are worse than in Cuba”.
Noengris Garcia, also eight months pregnant, was traveling with her husband, teenage son and small family dog from the small state of Portuguesa, Venezuela, where she operated a food stand.
“We don’t want them to give us money or a house,” said García, 39. “We just want to work.”
Asked what he learned from seeing the border firsthand and talking to officers working along it, Biden said: “They need a lot of resources. We’re going to get it for them.”
El Paso is currently the largest corridor for illegal crossings, largely due to Nicaraguans fleeing repression, crime and poverty in their country. They are among immigrants from four countries now subject to expedited removal under new rules enacted by the Biden administration. last week that drew strong criticism from immigration advocates.
Biden’s recent policy announcements on border security and his visit to the border were intended in part to blunt the impact of upcoming immigration investigations promised by House Republicans. But any lasting solution will require action by a deeply divided Congress, where multiple efforts to enact sweeping changes have failed in recent years.
From Texas, Biden headed south to Mexico City, where he and the leaders of Mexico and Canada will meet. on Monday and Tuesday for a summit of American leaders. Immigration is one of the items on the agenda.
The number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border has increased dramatically during Biden’s first two years in office. There were more than 2.38 million stops during the year ending September 30, the first time the number had exceeded 2 million. The administration has struggled to clamp down on the crossings, reluctant to take steps resembling those of the Trump administration.
The policy changes announced last week are Biden’s biggest move yet to curb illegal border crossings and will turn away tens of thousands of immigrants arriving at the border. At the same time, 30,000 immigrants a month from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela will have the opportunity to come to the US legally as long as they travel by plane, obtain a sponsor and pass background checks.
The US will also turn away immigrants who do not first seek asylum in a country they traveled through on their way to the US Immigrants are asked to fill out a form on a phone app so they can go to a port Check in at a pre-scheduled date and time.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters aboard Air Force One that the administration is trying to “incentivize a safe and orderly manner and eliminate smuggling organizations,” saying the policies “are not a ban on absolute,” but rather an attempt to protect migrants from the trauma that smuggling can create.
Some welcomed the changes, particularly leaders in cities where immigrants have been piling up. But Biden was criticized by immigrant advocacy groups, who accused him of taking actions modeled on those of the former president. Administration officials disputed that characterization.
Despite all his international travel during his 50 years in public service, Biden hasn’t spent much time on the US-Mexico border.
The only visit the White House could point to was Biden’s trip across the border while campaigning for president in 2008. He sent Vice President Kamala Harris to El Paso in 2021.but it was criticized for largely overlooking the action, because El Paso was not the hub of crossings it is now.
Trump, who has made a signature issue of toughening immigration, has traveled to the border several times.
Associated Press writers Andrés Leighton in El Paso, Texas; Anita Snow in Phoenix; Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Josh Boak in Washington contributed to this report.