(The Center Square) – On his first trip to the southern border since he’s been in office, President Joe Biden met with Democratic officials in El Paso, where record apprehensions are taking place. He didn’t visit the downtown area overrun by homeless migrants, meet with local residents impacted by the surge in illegal immigration, make formal remarks or speak with reporters.
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After the president arrived at the airport, reporters waited to speak with him and expressed their expectation to hear him give remarks, The Center Square observed. Several reporters continued to ask when the president might speak, expressing consternation about not being sure at what part of his three-hour planned visit they’d be able to ask questions.
The only official who spoke with reporters and answered their questions was Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Abbott, who wasn’t included in Biden’s visit to Texas, arrived at the airport and waited to speak with the president. Sitting below Air Force One, he waited for the president to debark the plane. After descending the stairs, Biden shook hands with Abbott and accepted a letter the governor gave him. In it, Abbott later said he listed five actions the president could take to immediately secure the border.
They spoke briefly, after which the president left with Democratic officials. Abbott then made a point of speaking with reporters and answering their questions.
The president first visited a Customs and Border Protection processing center at the Bridge of Americas. Reporters waited outside, and again asked when they’d be able to ask the president questions. Biden again made no public remarks and didn’t take questions.
Of this part of the president’s visit, KVIA News 7 reported, “While at the Bridge of the Americas, President Biden watched as a canine officer demonstrated how it could find a suitcase in a trunk. The dog went around the car once and stopped at the trunk.
“The officers pulled out a suitcase and then took out what looked like fruit and a hunk of lunch meat.
“President Biden also saw another demonstration showing how a chocolate lab could find a package of what looks like drugs or money from the backseat of a Chevy pickup.”
Joining the president were Democratic U.S Reps. Veronica Escobar, Henry Cuellar and Vincente Gonzalez, the El Paso mayor and other local officials, and several CBP agents.
None spoke with the media, but Cuellar tweeted he was meeting with the president “to discuss how to bring order to the border and treat migrants with respect as we implement a lawful path for relief.”
Biden lastly visited El Paso’s Migrant Processing Center and again didn’t make public remarks or take questions from the media.
The president never visited the actual border, where illegal crossings have escalated over the past several months, prompting El Paso’s mayor to declare an emergency and Abbott to deploy the Texas National Guard to El Paso last month.
The El Paso Sector, which includes two west Texas counties and all of New Mexico, has experienced a surge of illegal activity, with apprehensions breaking all-time records.
In December, agents apprehended more than 55,700 people and reported nearly 33,000 gotaways, according to preliminary CBP data obtained by The Center Square.
In November, they apprehended more than 53,000 illegal foreign nationals in the sector and reported over 24,000 gotaways.
The number of people crossing the border every month are greater than the individual populations of all but four cities and all but five of counties in New Mexico, according to 2022 Census data analyzed by The Center Square.
Prior to the president’s arrival, Abbott tweeted Sunday morning, “President Biden’s border visit today is to a sanitized version of El Paso. He has no plans to enforce federal immigration laws. Biden’s plan will only entice more illegal crossings. Texas will continue our historic border mission to protect our state.”
The National Border Patrol Council, the union representing Border Patrol agents, criticized Democratic leaders in El Paso and other cities, referring to them as “Open border politicians [who say] ‘We need help. We need money. We’ll go bankrupt. We shouldn’t have to absorb this problem. The inn is full.’”
But at the same time, these officials claim, “‘Our undocumented citizens pay far more in taxes than they receive in benefits,’” the NBPC said.
El Paso native and president of the Border Security Coalition, Irene Armendariz-Jackson, said the president’s trip and “the El Paso that will be shown to the media is not the real El Paso that we live in every day. They’ve spent days clearing out the illegals, cleaning up the trash and making it look like we’re not in crisis. WE ARE IN A CRISIS.”
Armendariz-Jackson has been posting video of downtown El Paso before and after preparations were made for Biden’s visit.
Former El Paso city councilwoman Claudia Rodriguez told The Daily Caller that nongovernmental organizations are giving money to local churches to provide assistance to homeless migrants in El Paso.
“This has never happened before,” she said. “We have never had people … sleeping on the streets” like they are now, she said. “This is completely unprecedented. It’s not sustainable.”
People from all over the world are coming, she said, “because they were invited to come” by the Biden administration, “they feel emboldened to come and they are coming.”
Biden, she said, needed to see the crisis from El Pasoans he was elected to represent because it’s “very devastating on our community … it’s something that we do not want, it’s something we did not ask for.