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Presidential campaign moves to the border, as Biden urges Trump to back immigration deal

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Ariana Figueroa, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
February 29, 2024

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump on Thursday afternoon paid competing visits to the nation’s southern border, where Biden called on Congress to reconsider a bipartisan border security deal that Republicans tanked at Trump’s direction.

Biden traveled to Brownsville, Texas, while Trump journeyed to Eagle Pass, highlighting how immigration policy has risen in importance as the 2024 presidential race takes shape. Biden is seeking reelection and Trump is the GOP primary front-runner.

“Here’s what I would say to Mr. Trump,” Biden said. “Instead of telling members of Congress to block this legislation, join me, or I’ll join you in telling the Congress to pass this bipartisan border security bill. We can do it together.”

Senate Republicans earlier this month walked away from that deal they brokered with the White House, following Trump’s objection to the plan that would drastically overhaul U.S. immigration law and bolster funding.

Biden said that the Senate needs to reconsider the bipartisan border security bill and that Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson should bring the measure to the floor for a vote.

Johnson has refused, arguing that the House already passed its own measure in H.R. 2, and that Biden has the executive authority to take action to address high levels of immigration. Democrats object to many of the policies in that bill.

Accompanying the president was U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who was impeached by House Republicans over policy disputes in early February, and Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, whose district includes Brownsville.

During his visit, Biden met with U.S. Border Patrol agents, law enforcement, frontline personnel and local leaders, the White House said.

“I just received a briefing from the Border Patrol at the border as well as immigration enforcement asylum officers and they’re all doing incredible work under really tough conditions,” Biden said. “They desperately need more resources.”

Mayorkas said only Congress can help DHS fund more Border Patrol agents, immigration enforcement agents, asylum officers, immigration judges and support personnel, facilities and technology.

“You can see the impact these resources will have on our ability to strengthen our security, advance our mission to protect the homeland and enforce our nation’s laws quickly and effectively,” he said. “Though Congress has not yet provided the resources we need, DHS will continue to enforce the law and work to secure our border.”

Migrant encounters

As the Biden administration deals with the largest number of migrant encounters at the southern border in more than 20 years, Trump’s reelection campaign has centered on stoking fears surrounding immigration — as he previously did in his 2016 presidential campaign.

More than 300 miles away from Biden in Eagle Pass on Thursday, Trump criticized the Biden administration and touted how he managed the border during his first presidency.

He highlighted his “Remain in Mexico” program that required asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while waiting for their asylum cases to he heard — a move that many advocates documented resulted in harm, separation and deaths to those migrants who had to comply.

“The best was ‘Remain in Mexico,’” Trump said. “You stay in Mexico.”

Trump implemented the program in 2019 and the Biden administration sought to terminate it in June 2021.

But the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas determined in Texas v. Biden that the termination memo from the Biden administration was not issued in compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act, so the court ordered the Department of Homeland Security to keep the program in place.

It took a Supreme Court ruling for the Biden administration to finally be allowed to end the program.

Trump also praised Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, who is at odds with the Biden administration over who wields authority over the border, most recently when Abbott defied U.S. Supreme Court orders to remove razor wire along the border.

Abbott has also sent migrants on buses and planes to Democratic-led cities without warning local officials, putting strains on those cities.

“He’s in some sanitized location,” Abbott said of Biden’s visit to Brownsville. “It just goes to show that Biden does not care about either Texas or the border and what’s going on.”

GOP on the attack in D.C.

U.S. House Republicans at the Capitol also criticized Biden’s visit to the border, calling it a “photo op,” and arguing that Brownsville is not a busy area that encounters many migrants.

“The border is the issue for every American no matter where they live, no matter where their state is, because every state is a border state,” Johnson said during a Thursday press conference.

Johnson also pressed for Biden to take executive action on immigration, something Biden has argued he cannot do without congressional authority.

Utah’s Blake Moore, the vice chair of the House Republican Conference, argued that El Paso, Texas, and Tucson, Arizona, are  busier than Brownsville in terms of immigration.

“Brownsville can hardly be considered one of the most challenging immigration areas,” Moore said.

Moore said that this should not be just the second time in Biden’s presidency he has visited the border, and that Trump’s visit on the same day made it seem like Biden was trying to compete with Trump. Biden’s first visit to the border was in January 2023.

“That is what the American people will take from this, and it’s disheartening to know that that is the case,” Moore said.

NBC has reported the White House says Trump’s visit had nothing to do with Biden’s trip to Texas.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.