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Biden, Trump Both Headed for Border    02/27 06:14

   

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump 
will make dueling trips to the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday, as both 
candidates try to turn the nation's broken immigration system to their 
political advantage in an expected campaign rematch this year.

   Biden will travel to Brownsville, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, an area 
that often sees large numbers of border crossings, White House press secretary 
Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday. He will meet border agents and discuss the need 
for bipartisan legislation. It would be his second visit to the border as 
president. He traveled to El Paso in January last year.

   "He wants to make sure he puts his message out there to the American 
people," Jean-Pierre said.

   Trump, for his part, will head to Eagle Pass, Texas, about 325 miles or 520 
kilometers away from Brownsville, another hotspot in the state-federal clash 
over border security, according to three people who spoke to The Associated 
Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the plans.

   Biden, speaking in New York on Monday, said he had planned to head to the 
border on Thursday and didn't know "my good friend apparently is going," too. 
The White House announcement of the trip came after Trump's plan to visit the 
border had been reported. The president declined to say whether he would meet 
with migrants on the trip.

   The trips underscore immigration's central importance in the 2024 
presidential race, for Republicans and increasingly for Democrats, particularly 
after congressional talks on a deal to rein in illegal migration collapsed.

   Biden has excoriated Republicans for abandoning the bipartisan border deal 
after Trump came out in opposition to the plan to tighten asylum restrictions 
and create daily limits on border crossings. Trump, meanwhile, has dialed up 
his anti-immigrant rhetoric, suggesting migrants are poisoning the blood of 
Americans.

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

   The administration has been pairing crackdowns at the border with increasing 
legal pathways for migrants designed to steer people into arriving by plane 
with sponsors, not illegally on foot to the border. But U.S. policy right now 
allows for migrants to claim asylum regardless of how they arrive. And the 
numbers of migrants flowing to the U.S-Mexico border have far outpaced the 
capacity of an immigration system that has not been substantially updated in 
decades. Arrests for illegal crossings fell by half in January, but there were 
record highs in December.

   Trump's campaign says Biden's plan to visit the border is a sign that the 
president is on the defensive over immigration and the issue is a problem for 
his reelection effort. Trump's campaign press secretary, Karoline Leavitt, said 
Biden was chasing Trump and is responsible for the "worst immigration crisis in 
history."

   Biden's camp says it's House Republicans who are on the defensive, after 
Trump flatly said he told GOP legislators to tank the bill that would have 
funded border agents and other Homeland Security authorities. The New York 
Times first reported the travel.

   While he continues to criticize Republicans for legislative inaction, Biden 
is considering executive actions to help discourage migrants from coming to the 
U.S. Among the actions under consideration by Biden is invoking authorities 
outlined in Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which give a 
president broad leeway to block entry of certain immigrants into the United 
States if it would be "detrimental" to the national interest.

   But without changes to law, any executive action taken by the administration 
that cracks down on border crossings is likely to be challenged in court. The 
White House has informed some lawmakers on Capitol Hill that Biden will not 
announce an executive order on immigration during his border trip on Thursday, 
according to a person familiar with the conversations.

   "There is no executive action that would have done what the Senate 
bipartisan proposal would have done," Jean-Pierre said. "Politics got in the 
way."

   According to an AP-NORC poll in January, concerns about immigration climbed 
to 35% from 27% last year. Most Republicans, 55%, say the government needs to 
focus on immigration in 2024, while 22% of Democrats listed immigration as a 
priority. That's up from 45% and 14%, respectively, compared with December 2022.

   Trump is again making immigration the centerpiece of his campaign, seizing 
on images of migrants sleeping in police stations and in hangars as proof that 
Biden's policies have failed. He's made frequent trips to the border as a 
candidate and president.

   During his 2016 campaign, he traveled to Laredo, Texas in July 2015 for a 
visit that highlighted how his views on immigration helped him win media 
attention and support from the GOP base. Since leaving office he's been to the 
border at least twice, including to pick up the endorsement of Texas Gov. Greg 
Abbott.

   Biden, meanwhile, visited the border only once, and he did not come into 
contact with any migrants. Rather, he inspected Customs and Border Protection 
facilities and walked a stretch of border wall. During negotiations on the 
border bill, he suggested he'd shut down asylum if given the power, a 
remarkable shift to the right for Democrats who are increasingly concerned by 
the same scenes of migrants encampments, and are asking the administration to 
speed up work authorizations so families who have arrived can at least seek 
employment.

   The failure of the border bill this month has caused the Homeland Security 
Department, which controls the border, to assess its priorities and shift money 
between its agencies to plug holes. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is 
considering slashing detention beds to 22,000 from 38,000 and reducing 
deportation flights. That would mean more migrants released into the U.S. who 
arrive at the border.

 
 
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