Biden will make rare visit to southern border on same day as Trump

President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, in New York, to return to the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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

The plans underscore the urgency now propelling 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 Trump and Republicans have wielded aggressively against Biden.


A majority of Americans disapprove of 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, Biden plans to meet with Border Patrol, law enforcement and local officials, according to Karine Jean-Pierre, Biden’s press secretary. Biden did not directly answer a reporter’s question on Monday about whether he would meet migrants directly.

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.

Biden said he had planned the visit without being aware that 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,” Biden told reporters during a trip to New York, making an apparent reference to Trump.

Biden has been considering executive actions that would essentially prevent those who cross the border from claiming asylum, but 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.”

Trump will visit Eagle Pass, Texas, on Thursday. CNN reported the planned trip last week. Trump plans to deliver remarks from the border to highlight the immigration crisis and lay blame at the feet of Biden, according to a person close to Trump who was not authorized to discuss the plans publicly.

Trump is expected to highlight crimes committed by migrants in New York and in other cities, as well as the arrest of a Venezuelan immigrant without legal status in the recent high-profile killing of a 22-year-old nursing student in Georgia, the person added.

On Monday, after the news of Biden’s visit was announced, 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!”

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, 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.

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 Biden of being weak on border security.

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

The executive order 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 Friday during the National Governors Association conference, Biden told the governors that lawyers had told him he could not use the kinds of measures that Trump had, according to two people familiar with the remarks. It was unclear specifically which authority he was referring to.

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