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Biden challenges Trump to ‘join me’ as he urges Congress to pass border bill in rival Texas campaign stops

The two men expected to go head-to-head in November’s election were making their pitch on one of the key issues on the same day

Andrew Feinberg
Thursday 29 February 2024 23:22 GMT
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Biden asks Trump to join him in passing bipartisan border bill: 'We can do it together'

A pair of towns along the US-Mexico border became stages for two presidential candidates on Thursday as President Joe Biden slammed his predecessor and opponent for getting in the way of needed immigration reform and border security legislation.

In Brownsville, Texas — a border town along the Rio Grande, river — Mr Biden received a briefing from top Customs and Border Patrol personnel, including CBP Deputy Commissioner Peter Flores, Border Patrol chief Jason Owens, and Gloria Chavez, a top CBP officer who serves as the Brownsville sector chief.

Mr Biden was told by the head of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations division that DHS requires “more personnel” and “more resources,” including additional detention beds, technology for monitoring asylum seekers while they await hearings, as well as more cooperation from cities and states by having them alert ICE when they arrest people who aren’t legally present in the US.

Mr Biden was also told about non-intrusive inspection technology that could be purchased with the held-up supplemental legislation to prevent illicit fentanyl from being trafficked into the US.

He replied: “We can’t afford not to do this”.

In remarks to DHS personnel, Mr Biden praised their border enforcement efforts, telling them: “No one works harder for a safe and secure border than all of you”.

Trump falsely claims ‘no one speaks languages’ of migrants in lie-filled speech at US border

The president said it was “long past time” for action on the border security deal held up by Republicans, which was painstakingly negotiated by a group of bipartisan senators including Oklahoma Republican James Lankford, Arizona independent Kyrsten Sinema, and Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy.

He described it as “the toughest set of border reforms we’ve ever seen in this country”.

“It's pretty basic. With this deal, we could hire 1500 additional border security officers in between ports of entry,” he said, adding that staffing at CBP has been “flat” for years, even while border agents worked large amounts of overtime and made “major sacrifices”.

Mr Biden said it was “long past time” for a pay increase when he signed legislation in December to give border agents a raise, but said more was necessary.

“It’s time to step up,” he said. “The bipartisan border security deal is a win for the American people. That's a win for the people of Texas and it's fair for those who legitimately have a right to come here to begin with. It's a win for the people are brown. So I believe that's why the Border Patrol Unit endorsed it. I believe that's why the national Chamber of Commerce endorsed it.”

Biden lays into Trump for urging Republicans to oppose compromise border bill

The president recalled how Mr Trump’s command to Republican senators and the GOP-controlled House leaders pushed them to shelve the bill so the ex-president could keep demagoguing about immigration on the campaign trail, rather than actually enact legislation that could alleviate problems at the border.

“This bill was in the United States Senate, it was on its way to being passed. Then it was derailed by rank partisan politics,” he said. “The US Senate needs to reconsider this bill. And those senators who oppose it, need to set politics aside and pass it on merits, not on whether it's going to benefit one party or benefit the other party. It's about whether it benefits the American people”.

He also said House Speaker Mike Johnson, a close ally of Mr Trump, needs to allow an up-or-down vote on the border package, and noted that it had bipartisan support until Mr Trump ordered Republicans to oppose it.

“The majority of Democrats and Republicans in both houses supported this legislation until someone came along and said ‘don't do that, don't benefit the incumbent,’” he said, adding that pushing to kill a bill for such partisan reasons was “a hell of a way to do business in America for such a serious problem”.

Donald Trump talks with Texas Governor Greg Abbott in Eagle Pass, Texas (AP)

“We need to act — it’s time for the speaker and some of my Republican friends in Congress who are blocking this bill to show a little spine,” he said before finally acknowledging his predecessor’s competing visit to the Lone Star State in Eagle Pass, Texas.

“Here’s what I’d say to Mr Trump ... instead of telling members of Congress to block this legislation, join me — or I’ll join you — in telling the Congress to pass this bipartisan borer security bill,” he said. “We can do it together. You know, and I know it's the toughest most efficient, most effective border security bill this country has ever seen. So instead of playing politics with the issue, why don't we just get together and get it done? “

At the same time Mr Biden was touring Brownsville and calling for more resources, the former president, who launched his first presidential campaign by accusing Mexico of sending “crime,” “drugs,” and “rapists” across the southern border and ended his term by fomenting an attempted coup after the lost the 2020 election, was meeting with federal and state personnel allied with his goal of significantly reducing nonwhite immigration and blocking anyone from seeking asylum in the US.

Ex-president’s visit tries to replicate presidential pomp with help from partisan allies

In an ersatz approximation of a presidential visit, Mr Trump travelled to Eagle Pass, Texas aboard his bespoke and self-branded 757, and was met by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican ally who has devoted significant state resources to undermining the federal government’s efforts to reform immigration laws whenever Democrats have controlled the White House.

Mr Trump and Mr Abbott toured sites where he has used Texas National Guard personnel to block federal agents from carrying out border enforcement duties, often with the use of razor wire and armed soldiers working to keep border agents from rescuing migrants in distress.

They were accompanied by Brandon Judd, the Trump-aligned head of the US Border Patrol Union. Mr Judd, who is an active Border Patrol officer, delivered a blistering tirade against Mr Biden and praised Mr Abbott’s efforts to undermine the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

Joe Biden, flanked by US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, receives a briefing at the US-Mexico border in Brownsville, Texas (REUTERS)

“What President Trump has seen right here is he's seen how his policies have worked, but he's also seen how he can expand upon those policies once he takes goes back into the White House. He has seen how Governor Abbott has been able to use his policies to secure this specific area at the epicenter of the last two years of the illegal border crisis that we have had to endure,” said Mr Judd, who claimed that Border Patrol officers are “upset that we cannot get the proper policy that is necessary to protect human life. to protect American citizens. to protect the people that are crossing the border illegally”.

“We can't do that because President Biden's policies continue to invite people across,” said Mr Judd, who is nominally a federal civil servant charged with serving in a nonpartisan fashion no matter which party controls the White House.

But the duelling visits, one official and one ersatz, offered a window into the funhouse mirror of Mr Trump’s efforts to present himself as a shadow president with the aid of state and federal officials who have rejected Mr Biden’s legitimacy and the legitimacy of the federal government without consequence.

Trump remarks light on facts, heavy on racial innuendo

Mr Trump, who also met with Texas national guard soldiers under Mr Abbott’s command, delivered a bizarre, falsehood-filled rant flanked by the Texas governor and Mr Judd, in which he accused Mr Biden of deliberately allowing an “invasion”.

“This is a Biden invasion over the past three years ... it's allowing 1000s and 1000s of people come in from China, Iran, Yemen, the Congo,” and a lot of other nations,” he said, adding that the US was being “overrun by the migrant crime” even though crime rates in most US cities have fallen over the last three years.

“These are the people that are coming into our country and they're coming from jails and they're coming from prisons, and they're coming from mental institution, and they're coming from insane asylums, and they're terrorists. They're being led into our country,” he continued, calling the situation “horrible” and accusing leaders in other countries of deliberately sending asylum seekers to the US, again specifying the Congo as a source of violent migrants.

“I know many of the leaders of these other countries that are doing it and it's not just South America, it's all over the world, the Congo, a very big population coming in from jails from the Congo. You look at the jails. Now you take a look at the jails throughout the region, but more importantly, throughout the world. They're emptying out because they're dumping them into the United States,” he said.

In a statement, Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez reacted to Mr Trump’s trip and speech attacking Mr Biden, calling him “weak on border security” and “weak on crime”.

“That’s why he directed MAGA Republicans to kill the toughest and fairest reforms to secure the border in decades and tried to defund the police every year he was in office,” she said.

“The truth is, Donald Trump doesn’t want to secure the border. He prefers chaos and cruelty because he’s betting it helps him politically. Last time he was in office, kids were held in cages, families were ripped apart, and violent crime skyrocketed. It’s a bad bet – one that he will pay for at the ballot box this November.”

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