Biden, Trump make competing election-year visits to southern US border

By Thomson Reuters Feb 29, 2024 | 4:08 AM

By Steve Holland and Ted Hesson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden and Donald Trump, his likely Republican opponent in the November election, will make dueling visits to the U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday as a large influx of immigrants has become a dominant issue for voters.Biden, who has been on the defensive on the issue in recent months, will use a visit to the border town of Brownsville, Texas, to try to shame Republican lawmakers for rejecting a bipartisan effort to toughen immigration policies after Trump told them not to pass it and give Biden a policy victory.

Biden will meet with border patrol agents and customs and law enforcement officials and deliver remarks.

“He is going because it’s important to highlight that Republicans are getting in the way here,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Biden took office in 2021 promising to reverse the hardline immigration policies of Trump, but has since toughened his own approach.

Under pressure from Republicans who accuse him of failing to control the border, Biden called on Congress last year to provide more enforcement funding and said he would “shut down the border” if given new authority to turn back migrants.

The White House is also considering using executive authority to deny more migrants asylum at the border, a source familiar with the matter has said.

Trump, who as president from 2017 to early 2021 considered a tough border stance to be a signature issue for him, will be on offense in accusing Biden of bungling border issues. He will visit Eagle Pass, Texas, where border-crossers have posed a major problem for authorities in recent months.

“Trump believes that Biden is only going to the border as a reaction to Trump going,” said a Trump adviser, who requested anonymity.


A Reuters-Ipsos poll from Jan. 31 found rising concern among Americans about immigration, with 17% of respondents listing it as the most important problem facing the U.S. today, up sharply from 11% in December. It was the top concern of Republican respondents, with 36% citing it as their main worry, above the 29% who cited the economy.

Trump will be joined by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, whose administration has been building a military “base camp” Eagle Pass to deter migrants.

Eagle Pass remains a flashpoint in a heated partisan debate over border security even though the number of migrants caught crossing illegally into both there and Brownsville dropped sharply in January and February.

The number of migrants caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally hit a monthly record of 250,000 in December but dropped by half in January, a trend U.S. officials attribute to increased Mexican enforcement and seasonal trends.

The number of migrants caught crossing illegally has plummeted in the parts of the border around Brownsville and Eagle Pass, with hundreds caught daily in the past week instead of thousands in December, according to internal U.S. government figures reviewed by Reuters.

U.S. Border Patrol on Monday had more than 50% of its capacity available in both areas.

Abbott, a Republican, has deployed thousands of National Guard troops and laid concertina wire and river buoys to deter illegal immigration through a program called Operation Lone Star.

Immigration enforcement historically has been the purview of the federal government, and Abbott’s actions have sparked legal and political standoffs with the Biden administration and immigrant rights activists.

(Reporting By Steve Holland in Washington and Ted Hesson in Eagle Pass, Texas; Editing by Mary Milliken and Lincoln Feast)