GOP Delegation Visits El Paso Detention Center to Press Biden on Migrant Surge

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “GOP Delegation Visits El Paso Detention Center to Press Biden on Migrant Surge” – below is their description.

    Republican members of Congress are trooping to the U.S.-Mexico border to put a spotlight on a surge of migrants at the frontier that they say is the result of President Joe Biden’s shift from the hardline immigration policies of his predecessor.

    Less than two months into Biden’s term, both parties are already framing their messages on immigration — a perennial political flashpoint — for the 2022 election to decide control of the House and Senate.

    “On the border, we see that Biden’s policies created a border crisis,” House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy said last week as he prepared to lead a dozen other Republicans on a trip Monday to a detention center in El Paso. “President Biden announced that it was his priority to offer citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. What did he think would happen?”

    It was much the same during President Donald Trump’s time in office when high-profile Democrats such as New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren used trips to the border to draw attention to the squalid conditions for asylum seekers and people caught crossing the border illegally. It was, they argued, the purposeful result of Trump’s harsh policies.

    The point and counterpoint of such trips illustrate just how far apart Democrats and Republicans have moved from any consensus on what to do about an immigration system that both sides agree is broken and in need of a fix.

    Biden campaigned on a pledge of offering more assistance to those seeking refugee status in the U.S. Republicans say he is embracing an “open borders” approach that includes undoing a Trump administration program that sent thousands of asylum seekers back to Mexico until their immigration court hearings.

    White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week it is “absolutely incorrect” to refer to Biden’s policy as open borders, adding that the “vast majority of individuals apprehended or encountered at the border continue to be denied entry and are returned.”

    Still, the recent surge is striking. On Wednesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that 100,441 people tried to cross the border illegally in February, the first full month of the Biden administration, a 28% increase over January. More than 9,500 unaccompanied children came to the border in February, a 62% jump above January.

    The Biden administration announced Saturday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will assist shifting minors from Customs and Border Protection custody to the Department of Health and Human Services, which has longer-term housing facilities and attempts to connect underage migrants with family already in the U.S.

    Psaki on Monday said the previous administration left the system “dismantled and unprepared” to figure out the best place to send children.

    “It’s a very emotional issue for a lot of people,” Psaki said. “The challenge here is there are not that many options.”

    There will be pressure on Congress to act, and it’s not clear yet whether both parties can find a middle ground like they did in 2014, during a big migrant influx at U.S.-Mexico border.

    Responding to what was then a record number of more than 68,000 apprehensions of unaccompanied minors under President Barack Obama, lawmakers crafted a bipartisan $1.6 billion infusion for the Department of Health and Human Services, geared largely to help humanely detain, house and place unaccompanied children.

    Any congressional action to address the surge this time will come the same time Democrats work to push through broad immigration-law changes that will be divisive. Biden has proposed a plan that would provide a pathway to citizenship for roughly 11 million people living illegally in the U.S., would bolster assistance to Central American countries and would ease immigration for people fleeing violence. Republicans declared the bill dead on arrival.

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