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President Joe Biden will visit the US-Mexico border for the first time during his presidency on the weekend, traveling to El Paso, Texas.
Top US government officials said Thursday at a telephone press conference that during his Sunday border visit, the president will meet with local officials and discuss border security and law enforcement measures.
Biden will visit El Paso before traveling on to Mexico on Jan. 9-10 to meet with his Mexican counterpart, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on his first presidential visit to the US southern neighbor and also his first visit to a Latin American nation, since entering the White House in January 2021.
Before the trip, the White House on Thursday announced a series of immigration measures, including expanding the humanitarian visa program that to date has affected only Venezuelans but which starting on Friday will also benefit Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians who enter the US legally.
In keeping with the program, the US will accept more than 30,000 migrants per month from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti but at the same time will immediately deport to Mexico migrants from those countries who try to get into the US illegally.
Despite the criticism from the Republican opposition, Biden has avoided traveling to the border during the first two years of his presidency claiming that he did not want to have such a trip turn into a political circus.
His predecessor, Republican Donald Trump, visited the US-Mexico border at least five times to supervise the construction of his much-touted border wall, one of the keystone projects of his term in office.
The current Democratic administration is dealing with an unprecedented wave of migrants at the US-Mexico border due to economic, health and political crises besetting assorted countries in the Western Hemisphere.
On Dec. 27, the conservative majority on the US Supreme Court ordered the government to provisionally maintain Title 42, a public health policy implemented by Trump that allows Washington to rapidly expel illegal migrants, ostensibly to prevent them from bringing Covid-19 into the country.
States governed by Republicans complain that they have been completely abandoned by the federal government amid the immigration crisis while the White House has asked GOP lawmakers in Congress to approve immigration reform to fix the currently “broken” system, something the conservatives have been unwilling to do.
When he served as vice president under President Barack Obama, Biden was tasked with designing a policy toward Central America that was heavily weighted toward immigration issues, but upon taking office as president he delegated that job to Vice President Kamala Harris, who has adopted a very low profile on the matter.