(The Center Square) — President Joe Biden said Thursday that he will visit the southern border Sunday.
The announcement came in a speech on illegal immigration, where Biden promised more border security and pushed for increased legal immigration.
Biden said he would visit the border in El Paso, where the mayor declared a state of emergency in December because of the thousands of migrants flowing through the city.
“Our problems at the border didn’t arise overnight, and they are not going to be solved overnight,” Biden said. “It’s a difficult problem.”
The speech comes as Biden faces growing political pressure from the crisis at the southern border, where illegal immigration has surged to record levels.
The White House released a list of “border enforcement actions” Thursday, which include “expanding legal pathways,” including the “parole process for Venezuelans to Nicaraguans, Haitians, and Cubans,” and “tripling refugee resettlement from the Western Hemisphere.”
Those measures also include $23 million in additional humanitarian aid in Mexico and Central America, which Biden said would improve the conditions there so people no longer want to leave for the U.S.
“The Administration is also announcing that it is surging additional resources to the border and the region, scaling up its anti-smuggling operations and expanding coordination and support for border cities and non-governmental organizations,” the White House said in a statement. “Importantly, the actions announced today are being implemented in close partnership with Mexico and governments across the Western Hemisphere.”
The rest of the plan involved “surging resources” to the border and organizing efforts there but lacked details.
“These actions alone are not going to fix our entire immigration system, but they can help us a good deal in better managing what is a difficult challenge,” Biden said as he appeared with Vice President Kamala Harris.
Biden pointed to an immigration legislative framework he touted to Congress at the beginning of his term as well as additional funding requests he sent lawmakers for border personnel. He attacked Republicans several times throughout the remarks.
“We have a patchwork system that simply doesn’t work as it should,” he added, pointing to a lack of staff and judges.
Illegal immigration has soared since Biden took office, breaking records and straining border towns. As The Center Square previously reported, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents apprehended at least 226,050 people and reported at least 87,631 who avoided detainment by law enforcement in December. Combined, that totals at least 313,681 – a slight increase from November’s already record-breaking figure of 306,069.
Cartel activity and fentanyl smuggling have made the situation more dire. Fentanyl overdoses have skyrocketed.
As the crisis has grown worse, Biden has taken fire for doing little to address it. This would be his first trip to the border since becoming president.
Biden’s speech comes after he told reporters Wednesday his “intention” is to visit the border next week. That news sparked a flurry of speculation and criticism.
“Now Biden says his ‘intent’ is to visit the border next week,” U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, said after the initial reports of the visit. “Too little, too late. But at least he’d get to see the crisis he created.”
This visit comes on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court suspending the expiration of Title 42 until justices can make a ruling on the policy. Title 42 is a Trump-era immigration policy that allows border agents to expedite expulsion of migrants in the name of preventing the spread of COVID-19 into the U.S.
Biden took a shot at that policy in his speech Thursday, but some Republicans have argued it is one of the only policies helping slow the flood of migration in the face of ongoing border dysfunction.
Republicans also blasted Biden after the announcement of his visit, saying it was overdue.