Biden and Trump visit Mexico border

US President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump each staged visits to the US-Mexico border in Texas, showcasing their differing approaches to immigration ahead of a potential rematch in the November elections.

The concurrent visits on Thursday, spanning 523km (325 miles) apart along the border river, underscored the contentious nature of illegal immigration as a major issue. Biden’s visit to Brownsville in the Rio Grande Valley, a key crossing point, emphasized the need for bipartisan support for a border security bill previously blocked by Republicans under Trump’s directives. Biden urged Trump to unite in advocating for increased funding and stricter measures, labeling the proposed bill as the toughest and most effective in US history.

Meanwhile, Trump visited Eagle Pass, where he met with Texas National Guard soldiers and adopted a more confrontational stance, likening the situation to war and condemning the influx of migrants as “criminals” and “terrorists.” He also referenced a recent tragedy involving a 22-year-old nursing student in Georgia allegedly killed by a Venezuelan migrant, placing blame squarely on Biden and accusing him of responsibility for countless innocent victims.

The issue of immigration, driven by factors like climate change, global conflicts, and economic instability, has fueled rising concerns among Americans. Despite a 50% decrease in illegal crossings in January, record highs were observed in December. The immigration debate has shifted to the right in Washington, with Biden facing pressure to strengthen border controls, a departure from his initial promises to reverse Trump’s hardline policies. Conversely, Trump, known for his stringent immigration stance during his presidency, continues to make it a central issue.

A Reuters-Ipsos poll conducted at the end of January reflected a growing apprehension among Americans regarding immigration, with 17% of respondents citing it as the most pressing problem, up from 11% in December. Among Republicans, immigration topped the list of concerns, with 36% expressing it as their primary worry, surpassing economic concerns.