Biden travels to El Paso for first border visit in his presidency

EL PASO — President Joe Biden visited El Paso around four o’clock Sunday, visiting the US-Mexico border for the first time since taking office at the White House.

Upon arrival at the El Paso airport, he was greeted by Gov. Greg Abbott. Abbott has been a major critic of Biden’s immigration policies and has frequently encouraged him to visit the border over the past year as the number of migrant arrests has broken records.

“The president who caused chaos at the border should have been here. It just so happens that he was two years late and about $20 billion late,” Abbott told reporters at the airport. “He needs to step up and take quick action, including refunding the state of Texas the money we spent, but giving more resources to the federal government to do its job. Besides, it’s nothing but a show, unless he starts enforcing already existing immigration laws. They briefly spoke at the airport and parted ways. Abbott’s office said he was not invited to the rest of the presidential tour in El Paso. Asked about his conversation with Biden, Abbott told reporters, “He said he wanted to work with us on this.”

Biden’s office said the purpose of the trip was “to assess border security operations and meet with local elected officials and community leaders who have been important partners in managing the historic numbers of migrants fleeing political oppression and gang violence.”

While in El Paso, Biden visited the Americas Port of Entry, which connects El Paso to Ciudad Juarez for tourists and commercial trade. The President will also visit the El Paso County Migrant Service Center. Biden will be joined by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Majorcas; US Democratic Representatives Veronica Escobar of El Paso, Henry Cuellar of Laredo, and Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen; El Paso Mayor Oscar Lizer; and El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego.

According to the pool report, Biden made an unscheduled stop near an 18-foot-tall border fence along the border with Mexico.

Asked by reporters what he learned during the trip to El Paso, he said: “They need a lot of resources. We’ll get it for them. After his brief visit, he left for Mexico City. Biden is scheduled to meet with Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the North American Leaders’ Summit on Monday and Tuesday.

The president’s visit to the border is politically fraught as Republicans have accused Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris of neglecting border security.

When Biden visited the border city, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel held a press conference in the Rio Grande Valley with community leaders to criticize “the president’s disastrous border security plan and its impact on Texas’ border communities.” “We’re in McAllen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, where there’s so much going on, and President Biden has never been here before,” McDaniel said, standing next to local officials. “So we wanted to make sure we didn’t forget about that part of the state and let him do a photo op in El Paso and pretend the problem was gone.”

Abbott, who has made border security a top priority of his administration and spearheaded the construction of a state-funded border wall, said on Fox News that the Biden administration did not announce the El Paso visit until Saturday evening, when an employee received an email inviting Abbott to greet Biden on the runway.

Abbott said he personally delivered the letter to the President on the airstrip. The letter links the influx of migrants to the Biden administration’s open border policy and demands the president take a stricter approach to border security.

Biden said he hasn’t read it yet, according to the pool report. Biden recently announced a set of new policies that would allow 30,000 migrants a month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to enter the country and be able to work legally for up to two years if they apply from their home country and can find someone who support them economically in the US.

At the same time, immigration agents will expand the use of the health emergency order, known as Section 42, to deport the same number of migrants from these four countries to Mexico if they try to enter the US illegally. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Mexico has agreed to accept up to 30,000 migrants per month from these countries under Section 42.

If more than this number is detained, immigration officials will process additional migrants under standard immigration laws, which could result in deportation and a five-year ban on legal entry into the country.

“What we’re trying to do is incentivize broadly in a safe and orderly manner and exclude smuggling organizations,” Majorcas said on a flight to El Paso, according to the pool’s report. “So we’re trying to encourage them to come to ports of entry, not between points of entry. He also said the Biden administration has deployed an additional 100 Border Patrol agents to the El Paso area. and later this week, officials will open “a new facility with soft walls that can accommodate up to 1,000 migrants,” according to a pool report.

As part of the new policy, the Biden administration also plans to propose an immigration rule that would deny asylum to anyone who immigrated to other countries and did not first seek asylum there. This rule will go through a public comment phase before it is implemented and takes effect.

Some immigrant rights advocates have welcomed the new program allowing 30,000 migrants a month to enter legally. But they also criticized the president for extending Section 42 and a proposal to bar abused migrants from entering. Some say it looks like the plan the Trump administration has been trying to implement.

The Biden administration attempted to strike down Section 42 last year before a federal judge in Louisiana ordered that the administration continue to enforce the health emergency order. In November, Judge Emmett Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., ordered the Biden administration to repeal Section 42 immediately and then agreed to give the federal government until December 21 to prepare for the change. On December 27, the U.S. Supreme Council Court ruled that the Biden administration should proceed with Section 42. The High Court agreed to hear arguments in February about whether the Arizona-led coalition of 19 states, including Texas, could challenge a lower court decision ordering the Biden administration to strike down Section 42. 42. .

Dylan Corbett, executive director of the El Paso Frontier Institute of Hope, said he “would like this administration to give the rest of the country the moral argument that we need to create an effective, humane, affordable, hospitable and compassionate border security system.” “.

“In the end, expanding Section 42 to include Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans is an unfulfilled promise,” Corbett said. “Instead of putting our country on the right track to fully restore asylum at the border, these new actions reinforce dangerous, ineffective and inhumane policies.”

Eleanor Aser, senior director of refugee advocacy at Human Rights First, said: “We urge the administration to correct course, stop expanding Section 42, and abandon its misguided plan to promote a ban on asylum.” safe ways, we strongly condemn the Biden administration’s decision to expand the use of Section 42 to additional citizenships and its potential reinstatement of a new asylum ban that would alienate people seeking refugee protection,” she said.

Majorcas responded to the criticism.

“I saw criticism as a ban, but it’s not a ban at all,” Mallorcas said, according to the pool report. “This is markedly different from what the Trump administration has proposed.”

He added: “I have seen with my own eyes the kind of trauma that is inflicted on migrants who are actually used by smuggling organizations, so trauma or tragedy. Last month, El Paso became the epicenter of a significant increase in migrants crossing the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez. Border Patrol officials released some of the migrants into downtown El Paso after they were processed, and hundreds slept outdoors in near-freezing temperatures because local shelters reached their limit. In fiscal year 2022, which ended in September, immigration agents encountered 2.4 million migrants at the southern border – a record number.

Mallorcas said that in December, an average of about 2,000 migrants daily crossed the Rio Grande into the El Paso area, according to the pool report. That has dropped to around 700 a day, Mallorcas said.

Meanwhile, in Segundo Barrio in El Paso, a neighborhood south of downtown, hundreds of migrants were sleeping on the street where the Church of the Sacred Heart housed some of the migrants at night. Not everyone fits in the church’s shelter, so many sleep on the sidewalks next to it.

The situation has been tense in recent weeks.

El Paso police recently arrested Stephen Matthew Driscoll, 27, on suspicion of stalking and pointing weapons at some migrants on New Year’s Eve. In addition, last week, El Paso police and border guards arrested migrants near a church. Police say they are arresting migrants who violate city ordinances, and border guards say they are arresting migrants who crossed the border without clearance.

Some migrants said they had enough money to take a bus from the city to reunite with family in other parts of the country, but were afraid to leave the church because they were afraid they would be arrested by the police or immigration agents. .

Friday night, Pastor Rafael Garcia stood on a sidewalk corner looking worried when El Paso police arrested a migrant. An officer at the scene said Garcia police were arresting a migrant on suspicion of violating a city ordinance.

Garcia expressed his hope that Biden acknowledges that “these people are fleeing violence and are in a desperate situation.”

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