Politics

Biden says Mexico must step up border security aid, plans trip to El Paso border

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said Thursday that Mexico has agreed to accept the return of migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti and Cuba who enter the United States illegally, a critical step in his administration’s plan to dramatically increase deportations at the southern border.

Biden said Mexico has agreed to accept up to 30,000 migrants a month from each country. Typically, these individuals would be returned to their home countries, but their governments have been unwilling to accept the individuals back and leave them in the United States

“My message is this. If you’re trying to leave Cuba, Nicaragua or Haiti, or have agreed to begin a journey to America, don’t just show up at the border,” Biden said in a speech from the White House. “Stay where you are and search legally from there.”

Biden’s first trip to the border

  • ‘Orderly, safe humane’: Facing criticism that he has not done enough to stop illegal border crossings, Biden outlined what he called “orderly, safe and humane” ways to strengthen border control while expanding legal routes into the United States. The plan calls for “expedited removal” — a quick deportation process — of people who enter the United States without authorization and have no legal basis to remain.

  • Biden went to El Paso: The moves – a dramatic overhaul of existing immigration rules – come as Biden announced he will visit El Paso, Texas on Sunday in his first trip to the southern border since taking office.

  • The rules remain even if Title 42 ends: The new rules will remain regardless of what the Supreme Court rules on Title 42, the Trump-era common-sense policy that allows the United States to turn away migrants seeking asylum. “We can’t stop people from making the journey, but we can require them to come here in an orderly manner under American law,” Biden said.

President Joe Biden speaks about border security in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) ORG DISPATCH: DCPS101

President Joe Biden speaks about border security in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) ORG DISPATCH: DCPS101

What Biden announced

  • Although the US will immediately begin turning away Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans who cross the border illegally, it is creating a pathway to admit up to 30,000 people each month from those countries who have a sponsor and pass background checks.

  • This is an expansion of a similar policy launched exclusively for Venezuelans that began in October and has led to a dramatic drop in the number of Venezuelans attempting to enter the United States illegally, according to the administration.

  • The United States will also admit 20,000 refugees from Latin American and Caribbean countries over the next two years, which the administration says will more than triple refugee admissions from the Western Hemisphere.

  • Migrants who attempt to enter the United States without authorization and cannot be deported under the Title 42 pandemic policy will increasingly be subject to “expedited removal” and a five-year ban on re-entry.

Biden’s agenda in El Paso

During his tip-off to El Paso, Biden said he will address border enforcement operations and meet with local officials. He is also expected to urge Congress to fully fund his border security budget request and pass legislation overhauling the immigration system.

The president’s visit will come before a two-day trip that begins Monday to Mexico, where the most significant migration to the United States since World War II will be at the center of talks with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Why it matters

Biden is under pressure to detail his plans to deal with a wave of migrants at the US-Mexico border. Border security is a top priority for Republicans, who took control of the House in November’s midterm elections and have criticized Biden for not visiting the border. Republicans have also promised to investigate the administration’s handling of the issue.

“Obviously, immigration is a policy issue that extreme Republicans will always run on. But now they have a choice,” Biden said. “They can keep using immigration to try to score political points, or they can help solve the problem … and come together to fix the broken system.”

He said that as long as Republicans “demagogue this issue and reject solutions,” he has done what he can “on his own” to address the surge in migrants.

Migrants cross and line up on the north bank of the Rio Grande on December 19, 2022 to turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents for processing and a chance to stay in the United States to seek asylum.

Migrants cross and line up on the north bank of the Rio Grande on December 19, 2022 to turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents for processing and a chance to stay in the United States to seek asylum.

The background

  • Mexico travel: Biden is travels to Mexico 9-10 January to meet with Obrador. Migration will be “right at the top of the issues they will discuss,” White House spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday. Other priorities are climate change and drug trafficking, including the flow of fentanyl across the border.

  • Inflow of migrants: More than 2.38 million migrants were stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the first time the number topped 2 million in a year.

  • State of emergency: El Paso Mayor Oscar Lesser declared a state of emergency last month after the Border Patrol released more than 10,000 asylum seekers and other migrants in a single week. Hundreds have slept on the city’s streets.

  • Title 42: Texas Governor Greg Abbott warned last month that there would be “total chaos” at the border if a pandemic policy that allows the federal government to quickly deport migrants is allowed to expire. The Supreme Court has said the policy, Title 42, must continue while the courts evaluate a lawsuit filed by Republican officials in 19 states who want to keep Title 42 in place.

  • Vice President Harris: Vice President Kamala Harris, who was tasked at the start of the administration with addressing the root causes of migration, attended his speech.

Migrants crossed the Rio Grande and approach the Texas National Guard to ask when they will be allowed to be processed by Customs and Border Protection to seek asylum in El Paso, Texas on December 20, 2022.

Migrants crossed the Rio Grande and approach the Texas National Guard to ask when they will be allowed to be processed by Customs and Border Protection to seek asylum in El Paso, Texas on December 20, 2022.

What they say

  • U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he’s glad Biden will finally visit the southern border, but said it can’t be a “check-the-box photo-op.” He added: “If he wants to make this a meaningful trip that seeks tough solutions to the unsolved disaster his policies have created, I’ll be happy to point him in the right direction.”

  • Biden hit back at suggestions that his visit to El Paso is a result of avoiding pressure from Republicans. “The Republicans have not been serious about this at all. Come on. They have not been serious about this at all,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I knew what the score was — at least the close score was — on Title 42 before I went down.”

  • Jonathan Blazer, the American Civil Liberties Union’s director of border strategies, said Biden’s actions bind his administration “to the toxic anti-immigrant policies of the Trump era rather than restoring fair access to asylum protection.” He said the new entry program for Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians should not be tied to deporting equal numbers of migrants.

  • Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the Biden administration plan “really bears no resemblance” to the Trump administration’s transit ban because that plan expands legal pathways for migrants and allows asylum seekers to seek relief at ports of entry with humanitarian exemptions for deportations.

The bigger picture

While taking new administrative actions, Biden continues to argue that there are underlying problems with the immigration system that can only be addressed through legislative action. But there is no indication that a divided Congress will be able to reach bipartisan agreement on such a politically charged issue.

Do you want to know more? Here’s what you missed

Border visits: Biden plans to visit the US-Mexico border for the first time in his presidency

5 things podcast: Border towns prepare for title 42 battle how to deal with grief

‘Total Chaos’: Texas governor warns of ‘total chaos’ at the border when Title 42 expires this week

More: El Paso council members are urging Biden to visit the border as the humanitarian crisis continues

Contributors: Francesca Chambers, Rebecca Morin and the Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden says Mexico will accept migrants ahead of first trip as president

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