Biden, Trump try to work immigration to their political advantage during trips to Texas

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and his likely Republican challenger Donald Trump are both heading to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas on Thursday to demonstrate how central immigration has become to the 2024 election and how much both candidates want to use it to their advantage.

Each has chosen an optimal location to emphasize their respective points.

Biden, who wants to highlight how Republicans brokered a bipartisan border security deal on Trump’s orders, will go to the city of Brownsville in the Rio Grande Valley. For nine years this was the busiest corridor for illegal crossings, but illegal crossings there have fallen sharply in recent months.

Trump, for his part, wants to continue his attacks on Biden and his rhetoric after saying that migrants were poisoning the blood of Americans. He will do this from Eagle Pass, about 320 miles northwest of Brownsville, in the corridor that currently has the largest number of crossings. Trump is expected to speak from a state park that has become a Republican symbol of opposition to the federal government’s immigration enforcement practices.

In other words, the split screen moment couldn’t possibly be more divisive, with each candidate asking voters to take their side on immigration.

Concerns are mounting among voters about the country’s broken immigration system on both sides of the political divide, which could be especially problematic for Biden.

According to an AP-NORC poll in January, the share of voters concerned about immigration rose to 35% from 27% last year. Fifty-five percent of Republicans say the government should focus on immigration in 2024, while 22% of Democrats list immigration as a priority. That’s an increase from 45% and 14% respectively as of December 2022.

The number of people crossing the U.S. border illegally has been rising for years for complicated reasons, including climate change, war and unrest in other countries, the economy and cartels that see migration as a cash cow.

The administration’s approach has been to combine a crackdown at the border with increasingly legal routes for migrants, designed to encourage people to arrive by plane with sponsors, not illegally walk to the border.

Arrests for illegal crossings fell by half in January, but reached record highs in December. The numbers of migrants pouring across the U.S.-Mexico border have far exceeded the capacity of an immigration system that has not been substantially updated in recent decades. Trump and Republicans argue that Biden is refusing to act, but if Congress doesn’t enact a change in the law, any major policy will likely be challenged or held up in court.

Trump said this week that Biden was copying him by going to the border, though the White House insisted the president’s trip was quietly in the works before Trump’s visit was announced.

“I finally found a way to get him to the border,” said Trump, who is once again making immigration a centerpiece of his campaign. “We let them know we were going on Thursday… and suddenly, out of the blue, he announced he was going.”

Unlike Trump, Biden has made few trips to the border. Since the president was last at the border a year ago, the debate over immigration in Washington has shifted further to the right. Democrats have become increasingly eager to embrace border restrictions as migrants sleep in police stations and airplane hangars in major cities.

During bipartisan talks on an immigration deal that would have made access difficult for migrants, Biden himself said he would be willing to “close the border” now if the deal passes.

The talks seemed promising for a while. But Trump, unwilling to give Biden a political victory on one of his signature campaign issues, convinced Republicans to abandon the deal. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., declared the deal dead on arrival.

Biden promised to make sure everyone knew why.

“Every day, between now and November, the American people will know that the only reason the border is not secure is because of Donald Trump and his MAGA Republican friends,” Biden said earlier this month, referencing the Make America Great Again slogan the former president. .

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president will meet with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, law enforcement officials, frontline personnel and local leaders during his trip to Texas.

Trump will speak from Shelby Park, a vast area along the Rio Grande owned by the city of Eagle Pass. It was taken over last month by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who subsequently banned Border Patrol agents from operating there. The Biden administration sued and the U.S. Supreme Court allowed federal agents to cut the razor wire surrounding the park, but Abbott has since stepped up in a defiant move that challenges federal authority.

While there, Trump is expected to present updated immigration proposals that would mark a dramatic escalation from the approach he used during his time in office that raised alarms from civil rights activists and numerous lawsuits.

Some of these include reviving and expanding its controversial travel ban, imposing “ideological screening” for migrants, ending all work permits and cutting off funding for shelter and transportation for people in the country illegally. He will probably also bring up the murder of people. a 22-year-old nursing student in Georgia, the suspect is a Venezuelan migrant.

“The country cannot survive that much longer,” Trump said this week on WFDF in Michigan (910 AM), calling the suspect in the woman’s death “an animal.”

Trump claimed that things were much better during his presidency and now “you have the worst border in history and the whole country is falling apart, and criminals are coming into our country by the millions. And I will make sure it all stops and I will get it done quickly.”


Associated Press writer Valerie Gonzalez in Eagle Pass contributed to this report.