Biden and Trump to visit US-Mexico border as immigration plays key role in election

Joe Biden and his all-but certain Republican challenger, Donald Trump, will make dueling visits to Texas border towns on Thursday, a rare overlap that sets the stage for an election season clash over immigration.

In Brownsville, along the Rio Grande river, Biden is expected to hammer Republicans for blocking a bipartisan border security deal after Trump expressed his vocal opposition to the measure. Hundreds of miles north-west, Trump will deliver remarks from a state park in Eagle Pass, which has become the epicenter of a showdown between the Biden administration and the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott.

Hours before the president and former president arrived on the 2,000-mile stretch of border, a federal judge sided with the Biden administration and blocked a new Texas law that would give police power to arrest migrants suspected of entering the US unlawfully.

Trump, who Republicans appear poised to choose as their nominee for a third consecutive time, has once again made immigration a centerpiece of his presidential campaign by describing the United States under Biden as overrun by undocumented immigrants who “poisoning the blood of our country”, rhetoric that echoes white supremacists and Adolf Hitler. While in Texas, the former president is expected to lay out his plans for an immigration crackdown far beyond what he attempted in his first term.

Immigration has become one of Biden’s most acute political vulnerabilities ahead of the 2024 election.

Since Biden took office, a record number of migrants have crossed the southern border, driven by war, political upheaval, gang violence and climate change among other factors. Though the number of crossings dropped dramatically in January, according to border patrol data, there were record highs in December.

Voters across the political spectrum have expressed growing concern over the situation at the border, and few, as little as 18% according to a survey by the Pew Research center, are pleased with the administration’s handling of it.

In the survey, respondents most frequently cited “economic costs and burdens associated with the migration surge or concerns about security” as their top concerns related to migration.

At the same time, a rise in immigration last year powered population growth and boosted the US economy.

The White House threw its support behind a Senate effort to strike a compromise deal on the border, even endorsing an overhaul of the nation’s asylum system that immigration advocates and progressives denounced as Trump-like. But the deal fell apart amid Trump’s desire not to hand a political win to Biden on a key issue for his campaign. The Republican House Speaker, Mike Johnson, said the bill would be dead on arrival.

Biden vowed to remind voters of Trump’s interference.

Republicans, led by Trump, have blamed Biden. In Congress, they have sought to punish his administration by impeaching the secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, over alleged offenses that even conservative legal scholars said were related to matters of policy, not malfeasance. The Democratic-controlled Senate has signaled its intent to quickly dispatch the charges.

In January, the Texas national guard seized control of Eagle Pass’s Shelby Park, effectively blocking federal border patrol agents from the 2.5-mile area. As part of Abbott’s border crackdown, they erected razor wire and closed access to the park. Amid the standoff, a mother and her two young children drowned in a nearby part of the Rio Grande river. Texas authorities and border patrol blamed each other for the tragedy.

The supreme court temporarily allowed border patrol agents to remove the wire fence erected by Texas authorities.

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