Biden plans to visit southern border on Mexico trip

Incredibly, President Joe Biden has never visited the border during his entire career in politics. The closest he ever came was a 2008 drive-by where he was literally driving down the freeway adjacent to the border on his way to a fundraiser. 

But it looks like stuff just got real. 

The border visit comes as the administration made its broadest border policy announcement Thursday, a push to quell migration in the Western Hemisphere by allowing some migrants into the United States while cracking down on unauthorized border crossings.

“I will visit the border myself this Sunday in El Paso to assess border enforcement operations, meet with the local officials and community leaders and the folks at the border sending me what they need that they don’t have, and make it public what they conclude they need they don’t have to try to convince my Republican colleagues they should do something,” Biden said Thursday at the White House.

The El Paso trip was officially announced Thursday by a senior administration official who was briefing reporters on the new regional migration plan.

It’s a significant departure from the administration’s first two years, when border visits were largely conducted by lower-ranking officials, even as Republicans railed about conditions there.

Republicans and some Texas Democrats have essentially dared Biden to visit the border, following years of Border Patrol-led junkets where politicians often show up in flak jackets and other military-style gear to showcase the region’s dangers.

The Democratic stronghold of El Paso is part of the second largest binational city along the U.S.-Mexico border, with a combined population of around 2.7 million between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez.

While El Paso is deeply connected with its Mexican counterpart, irregular migration has recently weighed down the city’s social services.

In early December, a large group of mostly Nicaraguan migrants crossed the Rio Grande into El Paso, prompting a massive law enforcement and humanitarian response, and overwhelming the city’s shelters and non-governmental organizations.

That movement of people, in large part spurred by criminal action in Mexico, reignited the border debate right as the administration was riding high off the best midterm results for an incumbent president since 2002.

My own guess is that the only reason to do this now is because he’s expecting the crisis to get worse, something that has been widely discussed for months as the end of Title 42 approached. What I definitely don’t expect from this president is any willingness to take blame for what has happened on his watch. Maybe Biden will prove me wrong, but nothing he’s done so far suggests a willingness to accept any criticism as anything but bad faith.

I’m actually curious how this border visit is going to work as far as a presidential PR effort. Will Biden visit a shelter or actually go to the Rio Grande or up close to the border wall where people are streaming across? In case press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre is wondering, the latter would send a better message to the smugglers. And yet, I’m guessing Biden doesn’t want to be seen at a symbol associated with President Trump. It seems more likely he’d visit a detention center where cameras won’t be allowed at all or maybe just one for the pool. 

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