President Biden visits South Texas border

dfwnewsa | February 29, 2024 | 0 | politics , Texas Politics

President Biden visits South Texas border

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Border Report) — President Joe Biden is visiting the South Texas border on Thursday as immigration and how he’s handling it remains a top issue for voters.

Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas are scheduled to land Thursday afternoon at Brownsville-South Padre International Airport in Brownsville, Texas.

Biden is scheduled to meet with U.S. Border Patrol agents, as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, law enforcement officials, frontline personnel, and local leaders to discuss irregular migration from Mexico and what keeps drawing asylum-seekers to illegally cross into the U.S.

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He also is expected to discuss what the White House says is a need for bipartisan immigration reform legislation during a news conference in the afternoon.

“He wants to make sure he puts his message out there to the American people,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “While he is there, the president will be briefed by officials from the Customs and Border Protection, U.S. (Citizenship) and Immigration Services, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  And the president will also deliver remarks to highlight the need for Congress to pass the bipartisan border security agreement that was negotiated out of the Senate.”

U.S. President Joe Biden visits the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, on January 8, 2023. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

This will be Biden’s second visit to the Southwest border as president. He visited the West Texas town of El Paso in January 2023 and toured a migrant processing center there and a segment of the border wall.

During his El Paso visit, Biden was joined by Texas Democratic U.S. Reps. Veronica Escobar, of El Paso; Henry Cuellar, of Laredo; and Vicente Gonzalez, of McAllen.

“I am appreciative of President Biden for heeding my many calls and efforts to make this visit happen,” Gonzalez said. “I welcome and thank him for meeting with U.S. CBP personnel and local leaders; and calling for swift action to strengthen our southern border. Earlier this month, House Republicans had a clear opportunity to pass a bipartisan measure that would better fund the needs of our Border Patrol agents and Customs officers. Unfortunately, they continue to play political games at the expense of not only our community but the country as a whole. South Texans demand action and we must deliver!” 

Gonzalez, who now represents Texas’ 34th Congressional District, which includes Brownsville, again will travel with the president on Thursday, he said.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, is the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee and represents a portion of the Rio Grande Valley. He told Border Report he is staying in Washington, D.C., to help hammer out a budget spending deal. But he says he was invited and has been briefed on Biden’s planned visit.

“I’m glad he’s going down there and talking with Homeland Security people, law enforcement and border communities,” Cuellar told Border Report on Wednesday. “Just the fact that he’s showing up is something I’ve been telling the White House: You have to show up. You have to understand the border. We, at the border, want to see law and order but still treat migrants with respect and dignity. So, I’m very glad that the president will be down there.”

Reaction to his visit has been mixed and has largely followed party lines.

U.S. Rep. Monica De La Cruz, R-Texas.

U.S. Rep. Monica De La Cruz, a Republican who now represents Texas’ 15th Congressional District, Gonzalez’s former district, has criticized the president’s handling of immigration issues.

“Under President Biden’s watch, the United States is facing an unprecedented border crisis,” she said in a statement. “Despite South Texas being a safe community, his administration’s reckless policies have compromised the security and well-being of both Americans and immigrants alike. Though nothing will ever repair the damage he has inflicted on our country, we expect the president to deliver a clear and actionable plan to rectify the harm he has caused. Anything short of that will be a slap in the face to our dedicated Border Patrol agents and every family that has suffered due to his administration’s failures.”

The Border Patrol Union on Wednesday also criticized his visit, posting on X: “What Biden should really be doing on his border visit is giving Governor Abbott a medal to thank him for his public safety work protecting Texans from the massive border chaos Biden has unleashed. A job Governor Abbott shouldn’t even have to be dealing with.”

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr.

Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño Jr., who represents the Brownsville area and is the immediate past chairman of the Texas Border Coalition, said he is grateful for federal funds that have been sent to the border for more border agents, immigration judges and new asylum officers, as well as reimbursements sent to migrant shelters.

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“I would thank President Biden for his leadership and what it means to Cameron County: new infrastructure projects at the international bridge, the port, the highways and causeways, and funding for health care, broadband, and workforce training,” Treviño said. “Cameron County and the Texas Border Coalition strongly support your border supplemental request for more customs inspectors, Border Patrol, immigration judges, new asylum officers, grants for migrant shelter and services, and deployment of more equipment at the ports of entry to detect smuggled drugs and people. We have been advocating for those things for more than a decade.”

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Texas Border Coalition Chairman David Stout, who also is an El Paso County commissioner, said more needs to be done to reform U.S. immigration policies, and he hopes Biden’s visit will lay out specifics.

“[We] now seek solutions to national problems involving immigration and border management that are on our front doorsteps. Too many elected leaders have looked at these challenges and have seen partisan political opportunities instead of the bipartisan solutions they can be. Ours is a nascent success story that needs to be built upon to achieve our local, state, and national goals,” Stout said.

Stout advocates that the administration consider passing the Dignity Act, which was proposed in Congress in May and would include legal pathways for migrants and “Dreamers” and expand work visas, especially for agricultural workers.

Cuellar said he does not expect Biden to announce sweeping immigration reforms on Thursday.

But last week there were reports that the White House is considering executive action to restrict migrants’ ability to seek asylum at the border if they cross illegally into the United States.

“We urge the Biden administration to lead with courage to move forward bold and just solutions that address the urgent needs of people who migrate. It is imperative that the administration prioritize meaningful protections for people fleeing danger and facilitate the structural conditions and resources to make these protections accessible, including by increasing legal services,” said Shaina Aber, executive director of the Acacia Center for Justice.

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“With President Biden visiting the border this week, he should remember that he once campaigned on a promise to restore the United States’ role as a safe haven for refugees and asylum seekers,” said Amy Fischer, director of refugee and migrant rights with Amnesty International USA.

A Gallup poll released this week found immigration listed as the single-most important issue to American voters.

(Gallup Graphic)

On Wednesday, 128 advocacy organizations sent a joint letter demanding that Biden not sign any agreements with the State of Texas and denounce Operation Lone Star border security initiatives headed by Gov. Greg Abbott.

“President Biden’s visit to the border region presents an opportunity for the administration to openly reject Operation Lone Star,” said Ricky Garza, border policy counsel at the Southern Border Communities Coalition, based in McAllen, Texas.

Organizers with La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) have planned to peacefully demonstrate on Thursday during Biden’s visit to Brownsville, across from the airport.

Members of La Union del Pueblo Entero, or LUPE, hold a protest during a congressional field hearing on the border on March 15, 2023, in Pharr, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

Biden’s visit is happening on the same day that former President Donald Trump also has scheduled a visit to the South Texas border to the town of Eagle Pass.

Biden’s visit also comes as the city of Brownsville kicks off Charro Days — the border city’s largest celebratory festivities that commemorates the Mexican heritage of the area on both sides of the Rio Grande, and is named in honor of the “charro”, that dashing Mexican gentleman cowboy.

A children’s parade is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. in downtown Brownsville — the same time that Biden will be touring the border city.

Border Report is teaming up with ValleyCentral.com to livestream the president’s visit.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.

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