U.S. President Joe Biden flew to the Texas city of El Paso on Sunday for a firsthand look at the influx of thousands of undocumented migrants crossing the border with Mexico.
His visit came days after announcing that 30,000 Cubans, Nicaraguans, Haitians and Venezuelans would be allowed into the U.S. per month and allowed to work legally for up to two years if they apply from their home countries, pass a background check and prove they have a financial supporter in the U.S.
But Biden says they will be deported to Mexico if they enter the U.S. illegally, an expansion of a pandemic-era immigration policy that cited concerns over the spread of the coronavirus as the reason to keep out the waves of migrants trying to enter the United States.
In advance of the trip, the White House said Biden, long attacked by Republican opponents as soft on border security, will assess enforcement operations on his first trip to the border during his two years in the White House.
It said the president would meet with local officials who have been processing the arrival of “the historic number of migrants fleeing political oppression and gang violence” in the four countries.
But thousands of undocumented migrants are also arriving from other places, largely but not exclusively from Central American countries, and have overwhelmed border agents. Many of the migrants are administratively processed at the border but allowed to enter the U.S. on a promise to appear at later court hearings to consider their asylum requests. Others are turned back at the border.
In all, 2.38 million migrant encounters were recorded at various points along the U.S.-Mexico border in the fiscal year that ended in September. It’s the first time the annual number topped 2 million. Some of those instances were repeat encounters with migrants who tried to enter more than once.
El Paso is one of the largest U.S. cities on the border with Mexico, where thousands of migrants arrive daily.
U.S. presidents — both Democrats like Biden and former President Barack Obama and Republicans Donald Trump and George W. Bush — have for years been unable to reach agreement with Congress on a coherent immigration policy to control the wave of migrants looking to escape violence, political persecution and poverty in their home countries for the possibility of a better life in the U.S.
Biden’s Republican opponents have blamed him and Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas for the current disarray at the border.
Republicans who now narrowly control the U.S. House of Representatives say they will hold hearings on the issue. In a visit to the border in November, before he became the new House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy called for Mayorkas’s resignation, and vowed to try to impeach him and convict him of malfeasance in office to remove him if he does not quit.
But Mayorkas told ABC’s “This Week” show on Sunday he has no plans to resign.
“I will continue to do my work,” he said, and is accompanying Biden to the border. Mayorkas said that immigration issues are “gripping the hemisphere” and through the decades have been left unresolved by successive presidents and sessions of Congress.
Biden’s new order affecting migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela has been attacked by longtime Republican foes like Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Four Democratic political allies of Biden, Senators Robert Menendez, Corey Booker, Alex Padilla and Ben Ray Lujan, and immigration advocates have assailed the administration for continuing to use the coronavirus reasoning of the Trump administration to expel migrants.
In the ABC interview, Mayorkas said court rulings have prohibited the Biden administration from changing the rules governing entry into the U.S. and its use of the coronavirus provision to expel migrants arriving at the border.
Abbott, who has dispatched busloads of migrants to northern cities with Democratic mayors to force them to cope with the influx of new arrivals, said Biden’s trip to the border won’t amount to much more than a photo op.
He told Fox News the new plan trying to control migration from four countries has “no details whatsoever about what the Biden administration is going to do to stop people from coming across the border illegally.”
On his Texas trip, Biden will visit the El Paso County Migrant Services Center and meet with nonprofits and religious groups that support migrants arriving to the U.S. It is not clear whether Biden will talk to any migrants.
“The president’s very much looking forward to seeing for himself firsthand what the border security situation looks like,” said John Kirby, White House national security spokesman. “This is something that he wanted to see for himself.”
For all his international travel over his 50 years in public service, Biden has not spent much time at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The White House noted only that he had driven by the border during his failed bid for the presidency in 2008. He sent Vice President Kamala Harris to El Paso in 2021, but she was criticized for largely bypassing the then key migrant entry points, because El Paso wasn’t the center of crossings that it is now.
Trump, who has announced a bid to reclaim the White House in 2024, traveled to the border several times and often assailed the influx of migrants.
He started construction of a border wall, but Biden abandoned the project after defeating Trump in the 2020 election. Trump repeatedly said Mexico would pay for the wall, but then Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto tweeted in 2018, “NO. Mexico will NEVER pay for a wall. Not now, not ever. Sincerely, Mexico [all of us].”
American taxpayers ended up footing the bill for the portion of the wall that was built.
After his visit to El Paso, Biden is headed to Mexico City where he is meeting Monday and Tuesday with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a North American leaders’ summit, where immigration and other issues are on the agenda.
Some material in this report came from The Associated Press.
Source: Voa News