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What Biden and Trump Border Visits Say About U.S. Immigration Policy

Mar 5, 2024

The U.S. Mexico border

Last week, President Biden and former president Donald Trump both visited the southern U.S. border to discuss immigration policy and how to tackle the country’s latest migration surge. Biden and Trump toured different sectors of the border, with dueling arguments on what the country’s greatest immigration challenges are and possible solutions. 

Let’s take a closer look at Biden and Trump’s border visits and what they say about the future of immigration policy in the United States:

Biden’s Border Challenges 

Biden’s trip to Brownsville, Texas last week marked the President’s first visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in over a year. Biden’s choice to visit the border is part of the administration’s transition to a more aggressive campaign strategy in recent months. Overall, the Biden administration has rolled out tougher policies and rhetoric surrounding the border, even hinting at possibly “closing” the border to quell the surge of migrant crossings. 

During the Brownsville visit, a city which sees fewer border crossings than other regions, Biden argued that the southern U.S. border can function efficiently and safely with more resources from Congress. The Biden administration’s recent challenges passing an immigration bill in the Senate highlight how polarized Democrats & Republicans have become on the border issue. “It’s important to see how we process migrants on our border,” said Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat from Texas who represents Brownsville. Gonzalez met with Biden during last week’s visit to discuss the ways in which immigration reform and federal support could improve the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border for both U.S. citizens and asylum-seekers. 

Since he took office, Biden has faced political pressure from both sides of the aisle over border policy and how to manage unprecedented numbers of migrant crossings. A CNN poll last month showed only 30% of Americans approve of Biden’s border strategy and 79% of voters (representing both Democrats and Republicans) say that the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border is a “crisis.”

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Trump’s Anti-Migrant Campaign

Last week, Trump visited Eagle Pass, a border city of about 28,000 people and the scene of a heated dispute between the Biden administration and immigration hardliner Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Under his border crackdown Operation Lone Star, Abbott has deployed the Texas National Guard and other state law enforcement to the border and installed miles of razor wire along the Rio Grande river to deter migrant crossings. While in Eagle Pass, Trump met with members of the Texas National Guard and toured a local park next to the Rio Grande, where state officials have reportedly been blocking access for federal border patrol agents. 

Despite legal challenges from the Biden administration, Abbott has ramped up his state’s immigration enforcement and pushed back against federal immigration policy, making Eagle Pass the ideal backdrop for Trump’s campaign visit. 

Ahead of the 2024 presidential election, Trump has ramped up extreme anti-migrant rhetoric, with promises of mass deportations and detention camps for undocumented immigrants if re-elected. Trump built his first presidential campaign on anti-immigrant sentiment, with the hopes that he can capitalize on this strategy once again to secure a second term.

Looking Ahead

According to a recent poll by Gallup, U.S. voters now consider immigration to be the country’s most important problem to tackle. The survey found that the share of American adults who cited “immigration” as their top concern jumped to 28% in February 2024, up from 20% in the previous month. Immigration beat out both the “Government” and the “Economy in General” as the top-ranked issue.

The parallel visits to the U.S.-Mexico border are evidence that immigration and border policy will play a large role in the upcoming presidential election in November. Despite varying views on how to tackle a hobbled asylum system and the ensuing migrant crisis, immigration is top of mind for American voters across the country — regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum.

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