Biden makes his first presidential trip to the US-Mexico border as officials report a surge of migrants

Joe Biden heads to El Paso, Texas today, as his administration faces key questions about how to deal with the ongoing surge of thousands of Central and South Americans hoping to seek asylum in the United States each month.

The president’s trip marks his first trip to the US-Mexico border as commander in chief and comes notably as his administration battles in the courts to end Title 42, a controversial public health protocol used by both the Trump administration and now his own. as a legal justification for turning away migrants at the border.

The Biden administration has seen levels rise significantly since before the president took office, most recently seeing more than 227,000 migrants stopped by border agents in September, the most recent month for which data is available. More than 70,000 were deported that month under Title 42.

In September 2021, there were 192,000 migrants encountered by agents in the South West Border Region, while only 57,674 encounters occurred in September 2020.

The Biden administration recently expanded that authority to create a new guideline authorizing US Customs and Border Protection to turn away migrants from multiple countries in hopes of stemming that flow; in October 2022, the system was invoked to turn away all Venezuelan migrants encountered at the border, with administration officials citing a massive increase in both individuals and families originating from the South American country.

Last week, Biden’s team expanded the policy, saying it would now also affect all asylum seekers from Haiti, Cuba and Nicaragua. In each case, a new pathway has been established for migrants with sponsors to apply and be admitted.

But even with the expanded legal authority his administration has thanks to Covid-19, Mr Biden’s team faces criticism for the overall continuing trend of thousands of migrants crossing the border illegally every month. Many who are encountered by US Customs and Border Protection are processed in detention facilities and deported while others are released to the US.

There are several factors driving the problem, including America’s long-neglected immigration legal framework that lawmakers have tried and failed countless times to reform. Economic conditions, political instability and violence caused by organized crime across Central and South America also continue to be major drivers of northward migration.

Vice President Kamala Harris was appointed by Mr. Biden to lead his administration’s efforts to address these factors, but White House efforts have yet to achieve meaningful results. Meanwhile, red state leaders like Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas continue to protest Democrats’ perceived inaction and have organized bus caravans of newly arrived migrants to Democratic-led cities in an effort to keep media attention focused on the issue.

The prospect of passing immigration reform through Congress currently looks dimmer than ever, thanks to a new narrow Republican majority in the House that is expected to be largely beholden to its most conservative members. It’s not clear what, if anything, the Biden administration plans or even can do to blunt the trend without reversing course and embracing policies put in place by the Trump administration to control migration that were loudly condemned as inhumane and questionable . effectiveness in actually discouraging people from migrating north.

According to the White House, the president plans to “review border enforcement operations and meet with local officials who have been key partners in dealing with the historic numbers of migrants fleeing political repression and gang violence in Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua and Cuba,” a clear nod to the four the countries affected by his Title 42 expansion.

He told reporters this past week that he hoped to wait for a final decision on the fate of Title 42 before visiting; The Supreme Court ordered it to remain in place last month, but the legal battle over the policy continues.

“I wanted to make sure I knew what the outcome was, at least the closest outcome was, on Title 42, before I went down,” Biden said, while acknowledging that such a plan was no longer feasible. “I don’t like Title 42. But it’s the law now, and I have to operate within it.”

Republicans, meanwhile, described Mr. Biden’s trip as “nothing more than a photo op” in an official statement from the RNC. GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel is making her own counter visit to the border at the same time the president will be there.

The Texas governor, meanwhile, appeared on the Fox Business Network to complain that he was not invited to attend Mr Biden’s visit to the Lone Star State until the last minute. Mr Abbott has drawn Democratic scorn and accusations of cruelty with his program which organizes bus caravans to transport groups of migrants to places such as outside the Naval Observatory in Washington DC, the residence of Ms Harris. In many cases, migrants have arrived unannounced at their destinations in the dead of night, amid freezing conditions, with only local volunteer groups to help them.

“Joe Biden has not called me,” Abbott told Maria Bartiromo Futures Sunday morning. “He did not call me or his staff called to inform us of his visit or to invite us.”

“[L]Last night we got a random email from one of my staff asking if I would be there to meet him on the tarmac, the governor claimed.

The Republican opposition to his visit and criticism of the president’s plans comes despite their very public calls for him to do just that for months.

After Sunday’s trip to the border, Mr. Biden is set to fly to Mexico City to attend the North American Leaders’ Summit and bilateral meetings with the leaders of both Mexico and Canada.

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