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Biden Will Make Rare Visit to Southern Border on Same Day as Trump


President Biden is planning to make a rare visit to the southern border on Thursday, his press secretary said, traveling to Brownsville, Texas, on the same day that former President Donald J. Trump has already scheduled a border trip.

The plans underscore the urgency now propelling Mr. Biden and his team on immigration, which has become one of his most serious political liabilities. Under the Biden administration, record numbers of migrants have crossed the southern border — a fact that Mr. Trump and Republicans have wielded aggressively against Mr. Biden.

A majority of Americans disapprove of Mr. Biden’s job performance, and polls show that voters who disapprove of him cite immigration more than any other policy issue as a reason.

On his Thursday trip to Brownsville, Mr. Biden plans to meet with Border Patrol, law enforcement and local officials, according to Karine Jean-Pierre, Mr. Biden’s press secretary. Mr. Biden did not directly answer a reporter’s question on Monday about whether he would meet with migrants.

The president is expected to put the blame for the migration crisis on House Republicans, who blocked a bipartisan package that would have enacted severe restrictions at the border, and to call on Congress to come together and address the challenge.

Mr. Biden said he had planned the visit without being aware that Mr. Trump would also be traveling to the border.

“I planned it for Thursday. What I didn’t know was that my good friend apparently is going,” Mr. Biden told reporters during a trip to New York, making an apparent reference to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Biden has been considering executive actions that would essentially prevent those who cross the border from claiming asylum, but Ms. Jean-Pierre did not specify any new policies he would roll out.

“Him going is an action,” she said. “He’s taking this very seriously.”

Mr. Trump will visit Eagle Pass in Texas on Thursday. CNN reported the planned trip last week.

Mr. Trump plans to deliver remarks from the border to highlight the immigration crisis and lay blame at the feet of Mr. Biden, according to a person close to Mr. Trump who was not authorized to discuss the plans publicly.

Mr. Trump is expected to highlight crimes committed by migrants in New York and in other cities, as well as the arrest of a Venezuelan undocumented immigrant in the recent high-profile killing of a 22-year-old nursing student in Georgia, the person added.

On Monday, after the news of Mr. Biden’s visit was announced, Mr. Trump sought to blame his rival for the killing, writing on his social media site, “When I am your President, we will immediately Seal the Border, Stop the Invasion, and on Day One, we will begin the largest deportation operation of illegal CRIMINALS in American History!”

Mr. Biden’s visit to Brownsville, which has historically felt the effects when illegal crossings surge, comes as the White House tries to pivot on its political strategy at the border. For much of his time in office, Mr. Biden and his aides avoided publicly talking about the border, even though his senior aides were warned early on that the migration crisis could erode his support with voters.

Facing calls to visit the border in 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris described the move as a “grand gesture” and said she was more focused on addressing the root cases of migration, but she eventually acceded to the pressure and visited El Paso.

Mr. Biden’s aides spent months debating whether to put in place more enforcement-minded policies at the border to contend with the increase in migration as Republicans accused Mr. Biden of being weak on border security.

But after denouncing Mr. Biden for months over the border, House Republicans then tanked the bipartisan immigration bill, in part because Mr. Trump did not want Mr. Biden to gain a policy victory.

Mr. Biden’s senior aides believe the opposition allowed the White House to go on the attack and accuse Republicans of simply playing politics at the border and failing to actually alleviate the crisis. Democratic officials have also pressed the White House to attack Republicans for walking away from a package that included the kind of restrictions even Trump allies demanded for years.

“The border is in chaos,” Mr. Biden told donors last week in Los Altos Hills, Calif. “They don’t have the personnel.” He said Republicans would not even give the government the money “for the machines to detect the fentanyl that’s coming in.”

“It’s not what it says about political courage, it’s about what it says about the state of the party,” Mr. Biden said.

The executive order Mr. Biden is considering would shut down the border to new arrivals if more than an average of 5,000 migrants per day tried to cross unlawfully in the course of a week, or more than 8,500 tried to cross in a given day. It is likely to be blocked by the courts, but even the rollout of such an order would allow the White House to deflect accusations that it is avoiding the crisis and would continue to put pressure on Republicans to come to a legislative compromise.

Where that stands, though, is uncertain. At a White House meeting with governors on Friday during the National Governors Association conference, Mr. Biden told the governors that lawyers had told him he could not use the kinds of measures that Mr. Trump had, according to two people familiar with the remarks. It was unclear specifically which authority he was referring to.

“There is no executive action that would have done what the bipartisan Senate-negotiated proposal would have done,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. “There was a deal coming out of the Senate in a bipartisan way that took four months. Republicans got in the way because of what Donald Trump told them to do.”

By making the visit to the border, the White House appeared to be hoping to avoid the kind of political backlash it faced when Mr. Biden took roughly a year to visit East Palestine, Ohio, after a Norfolk Southern train derailed and spilled a toxic mess in the small town.

Mr. Trump filled the void, visiting the community in February 2023 in the weeks after the derailment, fueling accusations that Mr. Biden had neglected the crisis.



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