Biden in Texas for his first border visit as president | lifestyle

EL PASO, Texas (AP) – President Joe Biden arrived in Texas on Sunday for his first trip to the U.S.-Mexico border since taking office, making a stop in El Paso after two years of hounding Republicans who called him soft on border security . while the number of migrants crossing spirals.

Biden planned to spend several hours in the city, currently the largest corridor for illegal crossings, largely for Nicaraguans fleeing repression, crime and poverty in their country. They are among migrants from four countries now being quickly deported under new rules enacted last week by the Biden administration that have drawn strong criticism from immigration advocates.

The president was expected to meet with border officials to discuss migration as well as the increased trafficking of fentanyl and other synthetic opiates that are driving overdoses in the US.

Biden was scheduled to visit a migrant service center in El Paso County and meet with nonprofits and religious groups that support migrants coming to the US. It was unclear whether Biden would speak to any migrants.

“The president is very much looking forward to seeing firsthand what the security situation looks like at the border,” said John Kirby, the White House’s national security spokesman.

But Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, scoffed at Biden’s outreach. “All he’s going to do down there is rearrange the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. He’s not going to get any solutions to make the border safer, more secure and stop illegal immigration,” he told Fox News Channel. Abbott was on hand when Biden stepped off Air Force One and handed the president a letter outlining legislation the governor said would go a long way, if enacted, in addressing the “chaos” at the border.

Biden’s border security announcement and his visit to the border are aimed in part at quelling political noise and softening the impact of an upcoming immigration investigation promised by House Republicans. But any lasting solution will require action by a sharply divided Congress, where multiple efforts to enact sweeping changes have failed in recent years.

From El Paso, Biden was scheduled to continue south to Mexico City, where he will meet with the leaders of Mexico and Canada on Monday and Tuesday for a summit of North American leaders. Immigration is one of the agenda items. The challenge facing the U.S. on its southern border requires cooperation between multiple countries, a sign that diplomacy will matter as much as U.S. domestic policy.

In El Paso, where migrants gather at bus stops and parks before their onward journey, Border Patrol agents have stepped up security ahead of Biden’s visit.

“I think they’re trying to send a message that they’re going to check people’s documented status more rigorously and if you haven’t been processed, they’re going to pick you up,” said Ruben Garcia of the humanitarian group Annunciation House in El Paso.

Migrants and asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution are increasingly finding that protection in the United States is available primarily to those with money or the savvy to find someone to sponsor them financially.

Jose Natera, a Venezuelan migrant in El Paso who hopes to seek asylum in Canada, said he has no prospects of finding a U.S. sponsor and is now reluctant to seek asylum in the U.S. for fear of being sent to Mexico.

Mexico “is a terrible country with crime, corruption, cartels and even the police chasing you,” he said. “They say that people who are thinking of entering illegally won’t stand 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 increased dramatically during Biden’s first two years in office. There were more than 2.38 million stops in the year ending September 30, the first time the number has exceeded 2 million. The administration has struggled to contain the crossings and has been reluctant to take tough measures similar to 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 migrants arriving at the border. At the same time, 30,000 migrants a month from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela will be given a chance to come to the US legally if they travel by plane, get a sponsor and pass background checks.

The US will also turn away migrants who do not first apply for asylum in the country they traveled to on their way to the US. – planned date and time.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters aboard Air Force One that the administration was trying to “encourage a safe and orderly way and cut off smuggling organizations,” saying the policy was “not a ban at all” but an effort to protect migrants from the trauma that can contraband to create.

Some of the changes were welcomed, especially by leaders in cities where migrants congregate. But Biden has been outraged by immigrant advocacy groups, who have accused him of adopting measures modeled after the former president. Administration officials disputed that characterization.

For all his international travel in 50 years in public service, Biden hasn’t spent much time on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The only visit the White House could point to was Biden’s trip to the border when he was campaigning for president in 2008. He sent Vice President Kamala Harris to El Paso in 2021, but she was criticized for largely bypassing the event. because El Paso was not the center of transitions that it is now.

President Barack Obama made a trip to El Paso in 2011 to inspect border operations and the Paso Del Norte International Bridge, but was later criticized for not returning when tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors crossed into the US from Mexico.

Trump, who has made toughening immigration a signature issue, has traveled to the border several times. During one visit, he crammed into a small border station to inspect cash and drugs seized by agents. During a trip to McAllen, Texas, then the center of the growing crisis, he made one of his most-repeated claims that Mexico would pay for the border wall.

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

Associated Press writers Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Josh Boak in Washington contributed to this report.

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