Biden and Trump visit US-Mexico border as voter concern over immigration grows

Republican officials have seized on growing migrant arrivals to criticise President ahead of elections

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President Joe Biden and his presumed Republican challenger Donald Trump went to the US southern border on Thursday to address immigration, a major topic in this year's presidential election.

Each candidate chose a spot on the sprawling US-Mexico border to highlight their respective messages.

Mr Biden visited Brownsville, Texas, where migrant arrivals have dropped sharply in recent months.

Hundreds of kilometres away, Mr Trump appeared in Eagle Pass, Texas, the current centre of migrant crossings.

During his visit to the state, the President met US border officials, law enforcement and frontline personnel, as well as local leaders.

Mr Biden underscored how Republicans aligned with Mr Trump blocked a bipartisan bill in Congress for political gain. The bill would have reformed border security.

"The US Senate needs to reconsider this bill and those senators who opposed it, need to set politics aside and pass it on the merits not on whether it's going to benefit one party or benefit the other party," Mr Biden during a news conference.

"You know and I know it's the toughest, most efficient, most effective border security bill this country's ever seen, so instead of playing politics with the issue, why don't we just get together and get it done."

The US-Mexico border has for years had growing numbers of migrant arrivals, mostly from Venezuela and Central America.

Many are fleeing poverty, gang violence, the effects of climate change and political persecution.

But intense partisanship has frozen congressional action on the issue and successive presidents have relied on executive authority to make changes to the border and immigration system, leading to sometimes disjointed policies.

Eagle Pass declares state of emergency over migrant surge – in pictures

A Pew Research poll released this month found that 80 per cent of people in America believe the US government is doing a bad job of handling immigration at the border.

A Gallup poll released on Tuesday found a growing number voters – 28 per cent, up from 20 per cent in January – are saying immigration is the biggest problem facing the country.

Mr Trump, president from 2016-2020, made immigration a focus during his time in office.

He pushed for the construction of a border wall with Mexico and put in place a policy that separated migrant children from their parents.

Mr Trump also made it impossible for most migrants to seek asylum at the border, while forcing others to wait in Mexico while their claims were being processed.

He says that if re-elected, he would round up millions of undocumented immigrants and deport them, end birthright citizenship and screen migrants for their ideological beliefs.

He condemned Mr Biden's handling of the situation.

"He's a terrible president, he's probably the most incompetent president we've ever had," Mr Trump told a news conference.

"He's allowing thousands and thousands of people that come in from China, Iran, Yemen, the Congo, Syria and a lot of other nations – many nations that are not very friendly to us."

The Biden administration has combined harsh border measures with parole programmes that have granted entry to migrants from some countries.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the record number of migrants going to the southern border is part of a global challenge that is particularly affecting the Western Hemisphere.

“The key is to address the regional challenge that is migration," Mr Mayorkas told journalists.

"We need regional participation, not just on the part of the United States, of course, but on the part of our partners and allies to the south, and this Brownsville visit demonstrates the impact of that partnership.”

Republican officials have said the Biden administration has failed to secure the border and his policies have encouraged more migrants to come.

Desperate asylum seekers cross river between US and Mexico amid migrant surge – video

Desperate asylum seekers cross river between US and Mexico amid migrant surge

Desperate asylum seekers cross river between US and Mexico amid migrant surge
Updated: March 01, 2024, 9:40 AM