President Joe Biden is heading to the U.S.-Mexico border on Sunday following policy announcements and calls from Republicans as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued new criticism.
Biden is due to spend a few hours in El Paso, Texas, currently the biggest corridor for illegal crossings, and is expected to meet with border officials to discuss migration as well as the increased trafficking of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, which are driving skyrocketing numbers of overdoses in the United States.
Biden will visit the El Paso County Migrant Services Center and meet with nonprofits and religious groups that support migrants arriving to the United States. It is not clear whether Biden will talk to any migrants, according to officials.
“The President is very much looking forward to seeing for himself first-hand what the border security situation looks like, particularly in El Paso. He’s very much also interested in getting to talk to Customs and Border Patrol agents on the ground who are actually involved in this mission to get their first-hand perspectives of it,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Jan. 6.
Biden’s announcement on border security and his visit to the border are aimed in part at quelling the political noise and blunting the impact of upcoming investigations into immigration promised by House Republicans. But any enduring solution will require action by the sharply divided Congress, where multiple efforts to enact sweeping changes have failed in recent years.
But ahead of this visit to El Paso, Abbott, Texas’s Republican governor, accused officials of creating a manufactured image by removing illegal immigrants from camps in downtown El Paso, which sits across the border from Ciudad Juarez, one of the most violent cities in the world.
“El Paso rushes to remove illegal immigrants and migrant camps that are crowding downtown before Biden arrives. Predictable,” Abbott wrote on Twitter Saturday. “Biden does not want America to see the chaos that he has caused on the border. This is just a photo op and a game of pretend.”
El Paso rushes to remove illegal immigrants and migrant camps that are crowding downtown before Biden arrives.
Biden does not want America to see the chaos that he has caused on the border.
This is just a photo op and a game of pretend.https://t.co/4KJqorJjrP
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 7, 2023
After visiting El Paso, Biden will head to Mexico City, where he will meet with the heads of state of Canada and Mexico next week for a North American leaders summit. Reports say that immigration will be part of the agenda.
Since Biden took office two years ago, the number of illegal immigrants crossing into the United States from Mexico has increased dramatically. Data from federal agencies show that there were more than 2.38 million stops or arrests during the fiscal year ending in September. Upon taking office, Biden issued a series of executive orders that rescinded many Trump-era policies, drawing condemnation from Republican lawmakers and Abbott.
But in the past week, Biden announced new policies that would turn away immigrants who crossed the border illegally and who don’t seek asylum first in a country that they traveled through while en route to the United States. The Biden administration will now accept as many as 30,000 people from Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti, and Venezuela per month.
People who do not come to the United States under that program can be expelled back to Mexico via Title 42, which was allowed to remain for the time being after a Supreme Court decision several weeks ago. These latest moves drew condemnation from left-wing, pro-immigration groups.
“The expansion of Title 42 to include Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans is a broken promise,” said Dylan Corbett, executive director of Hope Border Institute in a statement. “Border communities will continue to work hard to pick up the broken pieces of our nation’s immigration system and show that our future lies not with expulsion and deportation, but with humanity and hope,” he added, without elaborating on what a solution might look like.
From El Paso, Biden will continue south to Mexico City, where he and the leaders of Mexico and Canada will gather on Monday and Tuesday for a North American leaders summit. Immigration is among the items on the agenda.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.