Biden makes first border trip; visit El Paso

WASHINGTON — Two years after taking office, President Joe Biden will make his first visit to the US-Mexico border on Sunday, with a stop in El Paso, where a massive influx of migrants has overwhelmed local shelters.

Republicans have long demanded such a visit, insisting that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris see firsthand the crisis, which they blame on weak enforcement and misguided policies.

“The President will visit El Paso, Texas on Sunday to discuss border security operations and meet with local authorities who have been important partners in managing the historic numbers of migrants fleeing political oppression and banditry in Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua and Cuba.” , the message says. a senior administration official told reporters on Thursday morning.

While there, he will call on Congress to provide record resources to the Department of Homeland Security and support a review of immigration and border security policies.

A growing number of Republicans are demanding the resignation or impeachment of Biden’s Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mallorcas.

Rep. Michael McCall, D-Tex., former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, criticized Biden for waiting so long to visit the border as president, “after 5 million people illegally crossed the border and 100,000 people died because of fentanyl. from China and Mexico.

He accused Biden of trying to capitalize on the “chaos” in Congress – trying to show leadership while Republicans squabble over the election of a new speaker.

But, as McCall said on Fox News, “He did nothing to secure the border. … You have to wonder about the timing of this.”

Biden will stop in Texas on his way to a two-day summit in Mexico City with President Andres Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

When Biden was vice president, President Barack Obama also visited the border in El Paso for the first time. This was in May 2011, four months after his presidency. Obama ridiculed the Republican Party’s demands for more border security before they endorse immigration reform.

“Maybe they’ll say we need a moat. Or alligators in a moat. They will never be satisfied,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dampened labor demand, and President Donald Trump’s tough policies and rhetoric have further curtailed migration, setting the stage for the boomerang effect that came with Biden’s inauguration.

Since then, there has been a massive increase in the number of migrants at the border, even though the public health law known as Section 42 remains in place, allowing US authorities to turn down many asylum seekers.

Known as “Southwest Ellis Island,” El Paso spent several weeks responding to a massive influx of migrants, many of whom were waiting for the repeal of Section 42, which allowed border officials to quickly remove migrants without giving them the opportunity to apply. for shelter.

Instead, the Supreme Court at the end of December retained the Trump-era basic policy, which was due to expire on the judge’s order on December 21. The case will be heard in February. The suspension imposed by Chief Referee John Roberts will remain in effect until the referees make a decision.

Restrictions were introduced under Trump at the beginning of the pandemic. Under the restrictions, officials have expelled asylum seekers within the US 2.5 million times and denied most people who applied for asylum at the border on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Immigration advocates sued to have the policy overturned. They argued that this was contrary to US and international obligations to people fleeing to the US to avoid persecution. They also argued that the policy was outdated as coronavirus treatment improved.

In El Paso, some migrants said they felt cheated. While waiting for Section 42 to expire, they crossed the Rio Grande without being cleared by immigration authorities. Now they are in limbo and threatened with exile.

“The truth is, I don’t know what to do,” Gabriel Castillo, a Venezuelan man who slept on the street, recently told the Dallas Morning News. “Many of my friends tried to get on the bus and leave El Paso. But now they’re back in Mexico. We’re just waiting for some sort of decision.”

Even with Section 42 in place, tens of thousands of migrants have crossed the border into El Paso since late August, according to Customs and Border Protection. Many of them were not eligible for expulsion because their home countries and Mexico would not accept them.

The week before Christmas, the Department of Homeland Security said it moved nearly 10,000 people through Section 42, deportation, or lateral transit to other border communities in a process they call “decompression.”

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