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Biden and Trump set for duelling Texas border visit this week

Published February 27,2024

President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump plan to visit Texas border cities on Thursday in a sign of how the 2024 rivals view illegal immigration as a key issue in the US presidential race.

Biden will travel Thursday to Brownsville, where he plans to meet with US Border Patrol agents, law enforcement officials and local leaders, according to the White House.

He will call on Congress to pass a bipartisan border proposal the White House has described as the toughest overhaul of border and immigration policy in decades. He also plans to call for Republicans to support funding for more Border Patrol agents, asylum officers and fentanyl detection technology.

Republicans have hammered Biden, a Democrat, over the border since he took office, saying his reversal of Trump's policies resulted in a spike in border crossings. The White House has cast its Republican critics as more interested in exploiting the crisis for political gain than working with the president to solve the problem.

The recent death of the bipartisan border proposal is a chief exhibit in making that case.

Republicans insisted last year that border proposals be included in a foreign aid package to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. But after Republican Senator James Lankford negotiated a border deal as part of a foreign aid package, it was overwhelmingly rejected by his fellow Republicans as insufficient.

Trump is expected to give remarks Thursday in Eagle Pass, the same day Biden will be in Brownsville, more than 480 kilometres away. Immigration enforcement is a core part of Trump's campaign, and his criticism of the bipartisan proposal helped seal its fate

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that proposal would have made the border more secure while treating people fairly and humanely.

"Republicans rejected this bipartisan agreement that came out of the Senate," she said during a briefing late last week. "That's something that the president worked with in a bipartisan way, obviously, with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate for months. They rejected that."

Biden has reportedly been mulling new immigration-related executive actions in response to the situation at the border. Jean-Pierre did not detail what those might be but said no executive action could deliver the policy changes and additional resources Congress could provide.

Republicans favor a hardline immigration and border package known as House Resolution 2. They say Biden and Democrats have refused to properly deal with the crisis and are only now scrambling for cover as they see poll numbers lagging as a result.

Biden's trip is a "political stunt that won't overshadow his open-border policies," National Republican Congressional Committee press secretary Will Reinert said in a statement.

Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said Biden has had three years to address the situation at the border.

"Now Biden's handlers are sending him there on the same day as President Trump's publicly reported trip, not because they actually want to solve the problem, but because they know Biden is losing terribly," Leavitt said.

It's been more than a year since Biden made a four-hour visit to El Paso on his way to a summit in Mexico City.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott handed Biden a letter during that visit urging him to take steps to address the "chaos" at the border. Since then, Abbott has pressed forward with his own border enforcement initiative, and Operation Lone Star has resulted in a series of escalating jurisdictional clashes with the federal government.

Eagle Pass, where Trump is expected to speak Thursday, has become the epicenter of the Abbott-Biden showdown since state authorities took control of Shelby Park last month.

The US Department of Homeland Security says the state has denied Border Patrol agents access to the park and the adjacent Rio Grande

The immigration enforcement debate has implications down the ballot as well.

Republicans have highlighted the issue to make inroads in several swing US House districts along the southern border, where Democrats have historically enjoyed an advantage.