US President Joe Biden has inspected a busy port of entry along the country’s border with Mexico, his first trip to the region after taking office two years ago as the immigration crisis intensifies.
The Democratic president visited the border town of El Paso in Texas located on the southern border, which connects the US and Mexico, to address one of the most politically-charged issues in the country as he prepares for a reelection bid in 2024.
During the visit, Biden inspected the barriers used to stop illegal entries into the US and the equipment that the border agents employ to detect various border violations, reports said.
The US president on Thursday stressed that he was taking the immigration issue seriously, vowing to further tighten the immigration enforcement measures at the US borders by blocking Cuban, Haitian and Nicaraguan asylum-seekers entry into the US.
Critics have blamed him for not being serious enough in tackling the immigration issue and failing to uphold US laws in regard to his office.
Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott handed Biden a letter upon his arrival in the state that said the “chaos” at the border was a “direct result” of the president’s failure to enforce federal laws.
"You have violated your constitutional obligation to defend the States against invasion through the faithful execution of federal laws," wrote Abbott, who is a possible 2024 presidential candidate.
Asked what he learned after visiting the border, Biden said: “They need a lot of resources. We’re going to get it for them.”
US House Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) was quoted as saying on Fox News that Biden should adopt the zero-tolerance policies pursued by his predecessor Donald Trump, which included separating asylum-seeking children from their parents.
"They've allowed now a situation where frankly, we no longer have a border," Jordan noted.
Border arrests nearly doubled in 2022 compared to 2021 as border agents apprehended more asylum-seekers and courts blocked efforts by the Biden administration to ease the tight Trump-era immigration restrictions, according to reports.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested nearly 143,000 immigrants in the 2022 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, close to double the number in 2021. Around two-thirds of those arrests were of people with only immigration violations, the data showed.
Most were migrants apprehended at the US-Mexico border with no criminal convictions or charges pending and who were transferred to the ICE.
At the same time, the ICE deported around 72,000 migrants to more than 150 countries around the world and aided Border Patrol agents in expelling many more from the United States under Trump-era restrictions known as Title 42 policy.
US Border Patrol agents apprehended a record 2.3 million migrants at the southwest border in the 2022 fiscal year. Close to half of those arrested were rapidly expelled under Title 42.
Under Title 42, a policy that has been in place to fight the COVID pandemic, expulsion from the US takes place in just hours. Those who are not expelled, are either released into the country to pursue immigration claims or detained by ICE.
According to the ICE report, Nicaraguans are currently detained more than any other nationality, as migrants from that country are crossing with increasing frequency.
Mexico, generally, only accepts the expulsion of some nationalities, mostly Mexicans and Central Americans and more recently Venezuelans, under Title 42.
The Biden administration has issued guidelines to the ICE, directing the agency to prioritize the arrest of more serious offenders and de-emphasize enforcement against non-criminals in contrast to the hardline immigration stance pursued by Trump.
But Republican states challenged those guidelines and court rulings in favor of Texas and Louisiana halted them. In November, the US Supreme Court heard arguments on the case with a decision expected by the end of June.
Former president Barack Obama made a 2011 trip to El Paso, where he toured border operations and the Paso Del Norte international bridge.
He was later criticized for not going back there as tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors crossed into the US from Mexico.