President Joe Biden on Thursday warned undocumented migrants to stay away from the US border, opening the door to limited legal arrivals from four impoverished countries, in a delicate balancing act over one of the country’s most explosive political issues.
Biden, who is expected to announce his bid for a second term soon, is trying to pick up the thread on an issue where he faces pressure from both anti-immigration Republicans and left-wing Democrats advocating for more human rights.
Biden called the US immigration system “broken” and also announced that he will visit the US-Mexico border town of El Paso in Texas on Sunday, ahead of a summit of North American leaders in Mexico City, where border security will be a key issue. .
Under his new plan, Biden said a controversial rule called Title 42 would be expanded to allow border guards to immediately reject more would-be migrants if they arrive by land.
“Don’t just cross the border,” Biden warned in a speech to Americans from the White House.
The tightened measures will end the record number of migrants and asylum seekers arriving after epic, often dangerous journeys organized by people smugglers, the White House hopes.
To appease critics on the left, the president said up to 30,000 eligible migrants will be allowed into the United States each month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
They must apply in their home country, have a US sponsor, and undergo background checks.
“It’s safe and humane, and it works,” Biden said.
However, he said fully fixing the system would require Congress to enact laws and increase funding for border and immigration infrastructure.
And he lashed out at congressional Republicans for refusing to consider more comprehensive reforms proposed by his administration, blaming “extreme Republicans” for the years of impasse, and for using immigration issues as an election issue.
– Title 42 Controversy –
The White House proposals unveiled Thursday expand a similar program of limited legal access for Venezuelans that began in October. However, the use of title 42 is at the center of a fierce debate.
The measure was implemented under the administration of Donald Trump, ostensibly as a health measure to reduce the flow of people during the Covid pandemic. However, human rights advocates and many in Biden’s Democratic party said the use of Title 42 was an abuse of a health emergency by an openly anti-immigration president.
The Biden administration is actually trying to scrap the rule and is now waiting for the Supreme Court to decide whether it should stay or go. So the new embrace of the migrant detention tool – which allows border guards to return illegal border crossers without any further procedure – is likely to cause a stir among some in his party.
– Not an easy solution –
The US economy relies heavily on migrant workers. However, uncontrolled migration across the long border with Mexico, including large numbers of asylum seekers as well as illegal border crossings traveling across often dangerous terrain, has put the system under irreparable strain.
Several presidents have failed to resolve the extraordinarily complex issue.
Trump came to power in 2016 largely thanks to his message that criminals, including rapists and murderers, were flooding the border. The inflammatory rhetoric struck a chord in communities already nervous about crime or job losses.
Biden, who defeated Trump in 2020, pledged to restore traditional American values at the border, accommodate asylum seekers and end harsh detention policies for illegal border crossings when he took office.
The issue is one of Biden’s main political foibles as he prepares for what aides say will be his likely announcement of a bid for a second term.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)
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