President Joe Biden is facing pleas for help addressing the migrant crisis as he traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border for the first time since assuming the presidency. The president walked along the border wall separating El Paso from Mexico and met with community leaders, local officials, and others who deal daily with the growing humanitarian crisis.
When Biden was asked by reporters what he learned, the president responded, “They need a lot of resources. We’re going to get it for them.”
The president’s trip, which lasted less than four hours, comes amid loud criticism from Republicans and some Democrats that say he hasn’t done enough to address the influx of migrants at the southern border. Biden departed Texas for Mexico City, where he will attend meetings on immigration as well as a host of other issues.
The number of migrants crossing the border has surged dramatically during Biden’s first two years in office. El Paso is currently the most significant corridor for illegal crossings. Last month, Oscar Leeser, Mayor of El Paso, declared a state of emergency in response to the burgeoning crisis.
El Paso has been at the center of the historic humanitarian crisis, said El Paso city council member Isabel Salcido, who previously called for the president to visit the border. “We continue to put band-aids on bullet wounds,” said the council member. She said she planned to point out the importance of assisting border communities that must deal with the consequences of the House’s failure to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Upon exiting Air Force One Sunday, the president was greeted by Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott, a fierce critic of the administration’s border policies. The governor handed Biden a letter dismissing his visit as a photo op and outlining five steps the administration needs to take to secure the border. One step includes resuming construction of the border wall immediately.
SCOTUS justices to hear new arguments this year
More than 2.38 million migrant stops were reported during the fiscal year 2022, which ended September 30. It is the first time the number has topped two million. The agency said more than 50,000 in each month, October through December. In December, an average of 1,800 migrant encounters per day were seen during December alone.
Dozens of individuals, including many migrants who crossed illegally after being blocked from seeking asylum at the border, now continue to sleep on downtown El Paso streets. Local nonprofit and faith organizations provide meals, while the city has provided buses for migrants to warm up.
President Biden has tried to end the Title 42 program. However, Republicans have sued to keep it in place. Local and state officials fear that an even more significant influx of asylum seekers will be seen if the Supreme Court ends a public health law from the Trump era that allows U.S. authorities to expel migrants rapidly.
Days before the restrictions were set to expire, the SCOTUS ruled the administration couldn’t stop the expulsion of migrants under the program. Justices have indicated they will hear arguments about the program in the upcoming session.
The president’s new policy of turning back illegal immigrants from Haiti, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela will stand even if the Supreme Court overturns Title 42.
Meanwhile, the U.S. said 30,000 migrants would be accepted per month from those four nations for the next two years if the migrants pass vetting, background checks, have eligible sponsors, and don’t attempt to cross the southern border. However, the new policy has angered immigration and asylum advocates, who continue to have a rocky relationship with the president.