The president reportedly spoke with border guards and visited a “migrant services center” in El Paso — the setting for a surge of thousands of illegal immigrants over the course of a few days last month. Biden made the stop on his way to the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City.
Gov. Greg Abbott handed a letter to Biden in El Paso outlining border security policies he urged him to adopt.
“Your visit to our southern border with Mexico today is $20 billion too little and two years too late. Moreover, your visit avoids the sites where mass illegal immigration occurs and sidesteps the thousands of angry Texas property owners whose lives have been destroyed by your border policies,” Abbott wrote.
“Even the city you visit has been sanitized of the migrant camps which had overrun downtown El Paso because your Administration wants to shield you from the chaos that Texans experience on a daily basis. This chaos is the direct result of your failure to enforce the immigration laws that Congress enacted.”
The governor contended that the border crisis, including the increase in fentanyl trafficking, is occurring because Biden “violated [his] constitutional obligation to defend the States against invasion through faithful execution of federal law.”
The White House announced on Thursday a series of border security measures the administration is implementing, including “surging additional resources to the border and the region, scaling up its anti-smuggling operations, and expanding coordination and support for border cities and non-governmental organizations.”
Notably, the federal government will begin admitting up to 30,000 foreign nationals per month — roughly the population of Southlake — from Nicaragua, Haiti, Cuba, and Venezuela using humanitarian parole, a program that is already in use for Venezuelans, Afghans, and Ukranians. The White House indicated that applicants must have an “eligible sponsor and pass vetting and background checks” to participate.
The Mexican government has agreed to “accept returns of 30,000 individuals per month” from Nicaragua, Haiti, Cuba, and Venezuela if the individuals in question enter the U.S. illegally.
Among other changes, the administration also pledged to triple the number of refugees from Latin America and the Caribbean, allowing 20,000 over the next two fiscal years. The Executive Branch will also increase its spending on “humanitarian assistance” in Mexico and Central America by $23 million.
However, the White House also placed the onus on Congress to repair the country’s “broken immigration system.”
Others weighed in on Biden’s stop in El Paso, including Sens. John Cornyn (R‐TX) and Ted Cruz (R‐TX), who did not seem impressed by his visit.
“Finally, after 5.3 million illegal alien crossings with over a million who got away, President Biden is visiting the border,” Cruz said in a news release, accusing the president of “gaslighting the American public.”
“If President Biden seriously wants to address the crisis his administration created, he needs to visit McAllen, Eagle Pass, Del Rio, and Laredo, and talk to the communities ravaged by crime, the ranchers who find bodies on their land, the Border Patrol who are overwhelmed, and the families who have lost loved ones due to cross-border drug trafficking.”
For his part, Cornyn said before Biden’s visit, “While I’m glad President Biden will finally come to the border, his visit can’t be a check-the-box photo-op like his Border Czar’s stunt more than a year and a half ago, which was unserious and unacceptable. He must take the time to learn from some of the experts I rely on the most, including local officials and law enforcement, landowners, nonprofits, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s officers and agents, and folks who make their livelihoods in border communities on the front lines of his crisis.”
The Texas House Democratic Caucus published a statement praising Biden and the measures outlined by the White House.
“We welcome President Biden to El Paso and commend him for taking much-needed action by surging resources to increase border security, expand support for Texas communities on the border, and accelerate the review of asylum claims. These actions will provide crucial support to our local, faith, and community leaders who have embodied the best of Texas in responding to the arrival of migrants fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries,” said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio).
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D‐TX-28) also attended the border event and visited with Biden.
The Republican majority in the U.S. House elected Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R‐CA‐20) after he lost 14 votes and reportedly offered concessions to a group of holdouts in the GOP caucus, which included border security legislation. McCarthy said in his victory speech that border security and immigration would be a priority, and the chamber would hold hearings near the southern border.
In March, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the State of Texas’ lawsuit against the Biden administration over its decision to end expulsions under the Title 42 public health order implemented at the beginning of the pandemic. In December, the nation’s high court stayed a decision by federal Judge Emmet Sullivan that would have ended the Title 42 order.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is without a permanent commissioner after Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in October forced out its previous chief, Chris Magnus. The agency is currently being led by Troy Miller, who acted as commissioner before the U.S. Senate confirmed Magnus in late 2021.
A copy of Abbott’s letter to Biden can be found below.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."