EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – President Joe Biden made his first trip to El Paso and the border since taking office — against the backdrop of an evolving and complex immigration situation.
The president landed around 12:45 p.m. Mountain Time on Sunday and is scheduled to stay for about three hours.
The trip comes as the president is traveling to Mexico to meet with leaders of Mexico and Canada.
One of the primary topics of conversation during the visit to Mexico City will be immigration, said Richard Pineda, director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at UTEP.
“That is significant he is using El Paso as a launching point, both literally and figuratively, for this conversation in Mexico,” Pineda told KTSM.
Biden’s visit also comes after Mayor Oscar Leeser issued an emergency declaration Dec. 17 with the border facing uncertainty over Title 42 and its future. The Supreme Court has since ruled to keep the pandemic-era health order in place possibly through June, until it can make a more thorough examination of the issue.
Title 42 has been used for more than two years to quickly turn away migrants, including those seeking asylum.
Biden will be visiting a slightly less chaotic border since Leeser issued his emergency declaration last month.
As of Thursday, border agents were reporting about 800 daily migrant apprehensions compared to 2,400 daily encounters in mid-December.
Leeser, when issuing his declaration, estimated that the Borderland area could see up to 6,000 migrant crossings daily if Title 42 is eliminated.
“The second and most glaring (impact) for residents of the Borderland is the situation that has unfolded the last several weeks in the race to end and now the delay Title 42,” Pineda told KTSM. “This has put stress on the efforts to minimize undocumented immigration into the United States.
“It has also shined a spotlight on Title 42 and the way it has affected asylum seekers,” Pineda continued.
Last week, the president unveiled a new online procedure for migrants to apply for asylum.
Migrant advocates have criticized the new procedure and have called on the president to meet with migrants themselves during his visit.
Saturday, the Border Network for Human Rights held a rally and march, ahead of the president’s visit, to call for more humane treatment of migrants.
Republicans and other critics of the administration say that the trip is nothing but a photo opportunity.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told Fox News: “All he’s going to do down there is rearrange the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. He’s not going to achieve any solutions that will make the border safer, more secure or stop illegal immigration.”
Irene Armendariz-Jackson, a Republican who ran against incumbent U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, and lost the last two election cycles, is hosting a protest to the president’s visit.