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President Biden is visiting the U.S.-Mexico border for the first time as president on Sunday, stopping in El Paso, Texas, on his way to Mexico. The visit comes after two years of back-and-forth with Republicans over the Biden administration’s immigration policy.
Republican state officials and the Biden administration are sparring over the future of Title 42, an early pandemic-era policy that lets the U.S. quickly expel most migrants seeking asylum without a hearing.
Last month, in a victory for Republicans, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration from winding down the policy.
The Biden administration announced that it would expand the policy to include people from Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti who illegally enter the U.S. through Mexico — but would also expand legal pathways for entering the U.S. The U.S. plans to accept up to 30,000 migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela each month.
“People come to America for a whole lot of different reasons,” Biden said during a Jan. 5 speech announcing the new immigration policies. “To seek new opportunity in what is the strongest economy in the world. Can’t blame them wanting to do it. They flee oppression, you know, to the — to the freest nation in the world. They chase their own American Dream in the greatest nation in the world.”
Immigrant advocates argue that Title 42 uses the pretense of public health to instead block access to protections for those seeking asylum.
For months, Republican governors have been sending buses filled with migrants to Washington, D.C., and other so-called sanctuary cities, as part of their campaign to call for tighter borders.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has sent many of the buses, hand-delivered a letter to Biden during his visit. The governor has been one of the most vocal critics of the Biden administration’s immigration policy.
“Your open-border policies have emboldened the cartels, who grow wealthy by trafficking deadly fentanyl and even human beings,” Abbott wrote in the letter. “Texans are paying an especially high price for your failure, sometimes with their very lives, as local leaders from your own party will tell you if given the chance.”
Biden is traveling to Mexico City later on Sunday, where he will attend the North American Leaders’ Summit.