EDINBURG, Texas – Border leaders have largely reacted positively to President Joe Biden’s new security and immigration plans.

Biden is slated to visit El Paso on Sunday to unveil his plan. It will be his first visit to the U.S.-Mexico border as president. The following day Biden will be in Mexico City for the North American Summit, along with Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian President Justin Trudeau. 

Under Biden’s plan, the U.S. will accept up to 30,000 migrants each month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. They will be allowed to stay and work in the U.S. for two years, as long as they come here legally, have eligible sponsors and pass vetting and background checks.

But, at the same time, the Biden Administration will expand a Trump-era policy, known as Title 42, that makes it easier to send asylum seekers back to Mexico. Title 42 is public health protocol administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser has said the number of migrants crossing into his city has caused a humanitarian crisis. He said he welcomes the opportunity to discuss immigration policy with President Biden.

“The federal government has been our partner on this humanitarian crisis and has provided much needed financial support as we assist with this critical federal issue. While President Biden is fully aware of the challenges we have been facing, it is always helpful to see things with your own eyes and we greatly appreciate him taking the time to visit El Paso and see for himself not only what we are faced with, but also the incredible collaboration among all our partners on this issue,” Leeser said.

“As we all know our immigration system is broken. I look forward to discussing our immigration challenges with the President and working with him as we work to address them in the most humane way possible while following the laws of the United States.”

El Paso County Commissioner David Stout is chairman of the Texas Border Coalition. On behalf of TBC, Stout said: 

“The Texas Border Coalition appreciates President Biden’s planned visit to El Paso this weekend. As an El Pasoan, and chairman of TBC, I’m happy that we are his first visit to the southern border. 

“For over two decades, TBC has urged Congress to address our nation’s outdated and ineffective immigration laws. We need federal action to provide the resources and processes to allow migrants legal entry, while also managing the border efficiently and orderly, as recommended by the TBC white paper released in November Meanwhile, local governments and NGOs need immediate resources to continue responding to the humanitarian needs on the ground.

“President Biden’s presence on the border could help provide the momentum needed for real long-term solutions at and between the land ports entry, rather than a piece-meal, band-aid approach.”

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said he hopes Biden’s visit to El Paso is not a political stunt or a photo op. Cornyn said there is a crisis at the border.

“While I’m glad President Biden will finally come to the border, his visit can’t be a check-the-box photo-op like his Border Czar’s stunt more than a year and a half ago, which was unserious and unacceptable. He must take the time to learn from some of the experts I rely on the most, including local officials and law enforcement, landowners, nonprofits, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s officers and agents, and folks who make their livelihoods in border communities on the front lines of his crisis,” Cornyn said.

“If he wants to make this a meaningful trip that seeks tough solutions to the unmitigated disaster his policies have created, I’d be happy to point him in the right direction.”

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez welcomed Biden’s visit to the border.

“I applaud President Biden’s decision to visit the U.S.-Mexican border and see firsthand the challenges that border communities currently are facing. He is always welcome to the Rio Grande Valley and his decision to visit elsewhere is not disappointing. What is important is his decision to visit the border,” Cortez said.

“Our hope is that this visit highlights the challenges border communities are facing and the need for comprehensive immigration reform as well as underscoring the need for Congress to act.”

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen is also pleased Biden is visiting the border. But, he would like him to visit the Rio Grande Valley also. Gonzalez said he welcomes the new immigration initiative.

“I am glad that President Biden is going to visit the Southern Border and am appreciative of the new measures that were just announced. I hope this visit gives the Biden Administration a first-hand understanding at the challenges our communities are facing and the importance of immigration reform. However, I strongly urge the President to also visit the Rio Grande Valley and speak with local leaders as no two communities are the same and require different approaches and resources. We cannot continue to rely on antiquated systems from 10 or 20 years ago to solve the ever-evolving issues of today. We must continue to address the problems not just at our Southern Border, but with our immigration system as a whole,” Gonzalez said. 

“Since coming to Congress, I have called for bipartisan, common-sense solutions that address our outdated asylum laws and provide the necessary resources to protect our border communities who are forced to bear the brunt of immigration policy failures. I continue calling on the federal government to allow asylum seekers to apply closer to their country of origin. That is why I introduced the ‘Safe Zones Act’ to allow us to set up the infrastructure needed for these changes and invest in our immigration courts. It is time to stop making excuses and start delivering results.” 

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa is a Rio Grande Valley native.

“Texas Democrats applaud President Biden for his pragmatic, bipartisan leadership on issues that are critical to Texas and the well-being of Texas’ working families: whether that be fixing our broken infrastructure, making Texas one of the world’s foremost technological innovation hubs, or, today, stepping up efforts at the country’s southern border to further address the current elevated number of international migrants crossing illegally into Texas,” Hinojosa said.

“As the President said today, our immigration system is broken. That has been true for decades now, regardless of which party has held the White House. This current historic number of migrants – fleeing political oppression and gang violence in Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Cuba – has nothing to do with the party in power in Washington. But, unlike Republicans, who just use this humanitarian crisis as a fundraising tool or a way to demagogue and stoke racist fears, the Biden-Harris Administration and Texas Democrats know the buck stops with us and it’s our responsibility to handle this problem – with our Party’s trademark compassion, fairness, pragmatism, and competence. As President Biden said today: this is a hard one to deal with, but we have to deal with it.”

Hinojosa said Republicans in Washington, D.C., have rejected President Biden’s requests for an additional $3.5 billion for border security, including funding for 2,000 new asylum officers and 100 new immigration judges.

“We look forward to welcoming President Biden to El Paso this weekend. The firsthand experiences he’ll have seeing our border enforcement operations, as well as the conversations he’ll have with our brave CBP personnel, will help inform Executive Branch actions to improve and streamline border operations. But, critically, we know what the President said today holds true: these efforts will not fix the border problem completely. We desperately need Republicans in Congress to finally put partisan politics aside and work with us in good faith to fix our country’s broken immigration system,” Hinojosa said.

In a joint statement, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said they were disappointed Title 42 is being extended.

“While we understand the challenges the nation is facing at the Southern border exacerbated by Republican obstruction to modernizing our immigration system, we are deeply disappointed by the Biden Administration’s decision to expand the use of Title 42. Continuing to use this failed and inhumane Trump-era policy put in place to address a public health crisis will do nothing to restore the rule of law at the border. Instead, it will increase border crossings over time and further enrich human smuggling networks. We are pleased to see an increase in the access to parole for Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, and Haitians, but this narrow benefit will exclude thousands of migrants fleeing violence and persecution who do not have the ability or economic means to qualify for the new parole process,” the Democratic senators said.

“We are also concerned about the Administration’s new transit ban regulation that will disregard our obligations under international law by banning families from seeking asylum at the border, likely separating families and stranding migrants fleeing persecution and torture in countries unable to protect them. We urge President Biden and his Administration to continue to pursue a multi-pronged approach to address the root causes of migration and to work with Congress to implement a more orderly and humane asylum processing system.”

The Texas Civil Rights Project also criticized Biden for extending Title 42.

“The Biden Administration’s newly announced border policies reshape access to asylum by continuing the callous tradition of trading off limited temporary benefits for increases in removal and enforcement policies – harming those most in need of safety.  By repackaging Trump’s failed and illegal immigration policies, President Biden is reducing our immigration system into a single focus of removal and deterrence, not humane processing,” said Karla Marisol Vargas, senior attorney for TCRP.

“Continuing the use of Title 42 was unacceptable, but the Administration expanding it is reprehensible – as is the plan to reinstate a Trump-like transit ban that will bar many from ever accessing our legal system, as Title 42 has done for the past 3 years. Moreover, although the new parole program for Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Cubans will undoubtedly provide safety for some, the administration should not condition this limited grant of hope on the expansion of policies that will absolutely harm the many excluded from this policy.  

“TCRP will continue to fight until we have a system that humanely allows for individuals seeking safety to be welcomed.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows parishioners from churches in the Pharr, San Juan, and Alamo area praying for undocumented immigrants next to the border wall in Hidalgo, Texas. (File photo: RGG/Steve Taylor)

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