Biden to visit border for first time as critics condemn migrant crackdown

The Guardian – By Alexandra Villarreal – Sun 8 Jan 2023

President will first make brief stop in El Paso as migrants have reportedly been cleared off streets and apprehended by agents.

President Joe Biden will visit the US-Mexico border for the first time in his nearly two years as commander-in-chief on Sunday, even as lawmakers and immigrant rights advocates widely condemn his administration’s latest hardline response to the deepening humanitarian emergency there.

Biden – who is due in Mexico City this week for an international summit – will first make a brief pit stop in El Paso, a recent ground zero for the consequences of a US immigration system that he has readily acknowledged is deeply broken.

The reliably blue border city in blood red Texas has been struggling for months to triage thousands of stranded migrants and asylum seekers, many of whom have had little choice but to sleep on the streets in cold, rain, and squalor.

White House spokespeople said Friday that Biden will use his long-awaited appearance at the US’s south-west boundary to meet with local leaders, assess enforcement operations, and speak with Customs and Border Protection officials on the ground.

They would not disclose whether his itinerary includes any time with asylum seekers affected by the dire situation, while migrants have reportedly been cleared off the streets and apprehended by border agents in the days leading up to his visit.

“The president is very much looking forward to seeing for himself firsthand what the border security situation looks like, particularly in El Paso,” said John Kirby, national security council coordinator for strategic communications, in response to concerns that Biden would touch down in a now sanitized city.

Biden’s first trip to the US-Mexico border since ascending to the nation’s highest office follows a record-breaking fiscal year of roughly 2.4 million migrant encounters there, amid a new normal of mass forced displacement because of regional instability, growing wealth disparities, climate disaster, and targeted persecution in various countries throughout the hemisphere.

It also comes mere days after the administration announced new changes to federal migration-related policies, which engendered immediate and intense backlash from pro-immigrant organizations and progressive members of Biden’s own party.

“For once, just once, I’d like to see this administration make the moral argument to the rest of the country that we need to put in place an effective, humane, accessible, welcoming, and compassionate system of protection at the border,” said Dylan Corbett, executive director of El Paso’s Hope Border Institute.

Instead, Corbett excoriated the administration’s new approach as an entrenchment of “dangerous, ineffective, and inhumane policy” and equated the strategy to “a broken promise”.

These latest policy developments, announced Thursday, include an even more severe crackdown at the US-Mexico border through the increased use of expedited removal, where migrants are rapidly deported without ever seeing a judge.

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Posted by Teri Perticone


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