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Biden to make long-awaited border visit after immigration strategy reboot

President Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Patrick Semansky/AP

Biden to make long-awaited border visit after immigration strategy reboot

Katherine Doyle

January 06, 03:00 AM January 06, 03:00 AM

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President Joe Biden will make his inaugural visit to the southern border Sunday after laying out a migration strategy to slash illegal border crossings in an attempt to wrest control of a politically fraught issue as the president weighs a reelection bid.

Biden had resisted repeated calls to make the trip, with aides dismissing the idea as political theater. The president last visited the border in 2013, years before the Trump administration’s hard-line policies revived attention to the issue.

But after struggling to articulate a coherent border policy, Biden’s rollout this week heralds a new vision for immigration that walks a line between stronger enforcement and increased humanitarian accommodations, said Cris Ramon, an independent migration analyst.

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“They feel that they’ve landed in a sweet spot between actually addressing the number of individuals arriving at the border … and offering protection to [others],” Ramon said of the White House.

Biden on Thursday unveiled new policies intended to “substantially reduce” the number of people attempting to cross into the United States illegally. The plan expands a parole process currently in place for Venezuelans to include Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans while ramping up enforcement measures along the southern border.

“Do not just show up at the border,” Biden said to immigrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua in remarks at the White House on Thursday. “Stay where you are and apply legally from there.”

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Administration officials on Thursday credited the program for Venezuelans, which began in October, with slashing the number of encounters of Venezuelan immigrants at the border by 90%.

Mexico has agreed to accept up to 30,000 immigrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua expelled from the U.S. each month, a diplomatic coup for the Biden administration. The U.S. will admit up to 30,000 immigrants from these countries each month.

“Without Mexico taking in individuals who are expelled, this policy wouldn’t exist,” Ramon said.

On Monday, Biden will meet with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador during a sign of the president’s ability to marshal cooperation from an important U.S. ally at a time when American influence in the region appears to be waning.

The relationship has not always been smooth. As Biden prepared to host Latin American leaders in Los Angeles, the White House downplayed Mexico’s boycott from the summit.

The visit with Obrador during the North American Leaders Summit is important “because it allows the conversations about the future of U.S.-Mexican coordination, immigration to continue forward,” Ramon said.

Biden’s attention to the issue comes as the crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border increasingly becomes a political liability for the president, who is soon expected to announce a reelection bid. Encounters along the border have soared, reaching 5 million since Biden took office.

For months, Democratic allies and Republicans alike have raised the alarm publicly, fearing an explosion of arrivals with the rollback of a pandemic-era health authority, Title 42, that has allowed border agents to rapidly expel hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the region without hearing an asylum request.

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Explaining the timing of the stop, Biden said he first wanted to know “the near outcome on Title 42.”

The El Paso, Texas, trip on Sunday was announced by a senior administration official during a call with reporters to brief them on the president’s new migration strategy.

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