Biden, during visit to overwhelmed border, urges Republicans to back Senate bill: 'Time to act'


President Biden, in a visit to the southern border on Thursday, renewed his calls for Republicans to back a controversial, but bipartisan, Senate border agreement — as illegal immigration continues to be a major political headache for the administration and he seeks to shift blame to Republicans for the crisis.

"It's real simple, it's time to act, it is long past time to act," the president said. "It's time for us to move on this, we can't wait any longer."

Biden spoke in Brownsville, Texas, after meeting with Border Patrol, law enforcement and local leaders. He began by addressing recent wildfires in Texas and Oklahoma, and linking them to climate change.

The visit, which coincided with former President Donald Trump's visit to the border in Eagle Pass, Texas, comes as illegal immigration has become a major 2024 election issue and remains a thorny issue for the administration. Polls show that more than half of Americans think large numbers of illegal immigrants entering the U. S. represents a critical threat to the country.

The crisis, now into its third year, has smashed multiple records with more than 2.4 million encounters in FY 23 and over 300,000 in December alone — breaking the record for monthly encounters.

President Biden and his administration have sought to shift the blame for the crisis onto the shoulders of Republicans. The administration says that it is working with a broken system that needs significantly more funding and comprehensive immigration reform. It introduced a bill on Biden's first day in office that included a mass amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants already in the U. S., which was immediately rejected by Republicans.

Republicans in the House introduced and passed legislation of their own that would fund more Border Patrol agents, resume wall construction, restart the Remain-in-Mexico policy and severely limit the ability of migrants to claim asylum.

After the White House made a supplemental funding request, including $20 billion for border funding in late 2023, Senate negotiators hashed out a deal that included additional staffing at the border and in asylum offices, an increased $1.4 billion in funding to cities and NGOs receiving migrants, took action to tackle fentanyl smuggling and would limit asylum claims. It would also increase detention beds to 50,000 and provide additional immigration judges.

"Folks, the bipartisan border security bill is a win for the American people and a win for the people of Texas, and it's fair for those who legitimately have a right to come here," Biden said.

"The U. S. Senate need to reconsider this bill and those senators who oppose it need to set politics aside and pass it on the merits, not on whether it's going to benefit one party or another party," he said, also calling for Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to put it on the floor in the House.... (Read more)

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