Biden Travels To US-Mexico Border Amid Record-Breaking Illegal Immigrant Encounters

JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Diana Glebova White House Correspondent
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President Joe Biden travelled to the U.S. southern border for the first time on Sunday, landing in El Paso, Texas, amid the record-breaking number of illegal immigrants crossing during his presidency.

El Paso was in chaos hours before Biden’s arrival, with hundreds of illegal immigrants sleeping on the streets, and some illegally charging residents for free parking spots and stealing cell phones, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported. The number of illegal immigrants coming to the city has dropped “since the peak in December” when it was “2,000 a day,” to a current number of 700 a day, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on the flight over.

EL PASO, TEXAS – JANUARY 08: Immigrants pack up blankets after sleeping outside a migrant shelter on January 08, 2023 in El Paso, Texas. President Joe Biden is set to visit El Paso Sunday, his first visit to the border since he became president two years ago. U.S. Border authorities took into custody more than 2.5 million migrants in 2022, the highest number on record. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Fiscal year 2022 recorded 2.3 million Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encounters with migrants, the most in recorded U.S. history. (RELATED: ‘Completely Unprecedented’: Hours Before Biden’s Arrival, El Paso Is In Crisis As Illegal Immigrants Sleep On Streets And Crime Runs Rampant)

Biden spoke with Republican Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott after he stepped off Air Force One, and made his way to a vehicle that drove him to the Bridge of the Americas Port of Entry for a tour with CBP agents. The agents showed the president how they find illegal objects, like people and drugs, in vehicles crossing the border.

He then walked by the border wall that separates El Paso from Juarez, Mexico, with Border Patrol agents.

“They need a lot of resources. We’re going to get it for them,” Biden told reporters.

Biden also visited El Paso County Migrant Services Center, which was mostly deserted on Sunday, before heading to Mexico City for the North American Leaders’ Summit.

US President Joe Biden speaks with US Customs and Border Protection police on the Bridge of the Americas border crossing between Mexico and the US in El Paso, Texas, on January 8, 2023. – Biden went to the US-Mexico border on Sunday for the first time since taking office, visiting an El Paso, Texas entry point at the center of debates over illegal immigration and smuggling. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Abbott has called the president’s intention of ending Title 42, a Trump-era COVID border policy that was upheld by the Supreme Court, a “reckless decision,” and has ordered his state’s National Guard soldiers to patrol the border. The Texas governor has also transported illegal immigrants throughout the country, including outside of Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence.

Biden had refused to go to the border up till Sunday despite repeated demands from Republicans. There is no evidence that Biden has ever been to the border in his life, but former White House press secretary Jen Psaki claimed in October that he drove by it in 2008.

The president said Thursday that he was waiting to visit the border until he learned of the fate of Title 42, and that Republicans were not “serious” about their border plans when they called him to visit. The White House has repeatedly characterized Republicans’ visits to the border as “political stunts.” (RELATED: Biden Blames Republicans, Defends Illegal Immigrants In Speech Announcing Border Restrictions)

The Biden administration announced new border policies on Thursday, including limiting the number of migrants coming from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela to 30,000 a month, and launching an app for migrants to register on before coming to the border. Biden told migrants to “not just show up to the border” and apply for asylum from their home countries instead.

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this piece said CBP recorded 2.3 million “encounters with illegal immigrants” in fiscal year 2022. It has been updated to refer to 2.3 million “encounters with migrants.”