Joe Biden says border chaos isn’t ‘important’ enough to make visit
President Biden shunned a chance to visit the border Tuesday, saying he had something “more important” to do on a trip to Arizona than see the chaos that’s erupted on his watch.
As he departed the White House for a flight to Phoenix, a short hop away from the border, the president told reporters his priority was to tour a new computer chip plant.
“There’s a more important thing going on,” he said when asked why he wasn’t adding in a border stop.
Mr. Biden has refused repeated invitations and suggestions from congressional Republicans and border-state officials to see the border up close. They say he’s ignoring the pain that has spread as the Border Patrol catches record numbers of illegal immigrants and releases them into communities.
The level of fentanyl trafficking and number of terrorism suspects detected crossing the southern border are also at record highs, as are migrant deaths.
Border experts were stunned by the president’s brush-off.
“The president is living in an alternative universe devoid of facts, truth, and reality,” Mark Morgan, who ran Customs and Border Protection in the Trump administration, told The Washington Times.
“We know there have been more than a million ‘got aways’ in the past 23 months, including an untold number of murderers, rapists, pedophiles and gang members, as well as, potential national security threats who now call the U.S. home,” Mr. Morgan said. “As the cartels expand their operational control, power, and bank accounts at the expense of our country’s safety and national security, the president remains clueless.”
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the labor union for Border Patrol agents, said Mr. Biden was falling down on “the most basic of responsibilities of the president of the United States.”
“Since he’s been in office more than 140,000 U.S. Citizens have died of fentanyl overdose, yet Biden doesn’t feel it is important enough to visit the location where most of the dangerous drugs are entering this country,” Mr. Judd said. “President Biden continues prioritizing politics rather than doing his job. He is failing all of us.”
Mr. Biden said his trip Tuesday was intended to highlight Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.’s new computer chip production facility. He was joined by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican.
“They’re going to invest billions of dollars in a new enterprise in the state,” he said.
The White House defended Mr. Biden’s thinking.
“The president was clear that his top priority is investing in the American economy and finance American communities and he’s focused on out-competing China and bringing back American jobs from overseas,” said press secretary Karine-Jean Pierre. “If anyone believes the president shouldn’t make that his top priority, they should say so out loud.”
She also challenged critics of the president’s record on immigration, saying he sent a framework for immigration legislation to Capitol Hill last year.
That legislation would grant citizenship rights to most illegal immigrants while promising more technology at the border and more legal assistance to illegal immigrants who do make it across.
In practice, Mr. Biden has erased most of the get-tough policies of his predecessor at the border and made it tougher to be deported from the interior.
The result has been an unprecedented run at the border by migrants spanning the globe.
CBP has nabbed more than 4 million illegal immigrants at the boundary with Mexico since Feb. 1, 2021. It is by far a record.
In October alone, the agency seized 1,907 pounds of fentanyl. That’s enough lethal doses to kill more than 430 million people.
For both drugs and people, experts say the more detected, the more that’s getting through.
Rodney Scott, whom the Biden team ousted as chief of the Border Patrol in 2021, told The Times he wasn’t surprised the president ducked the chance to visit.
“First, no one wants to be seen standing beside the mess they created. Secondly, he wouldn’t want to be seen at the border before his own border czar [Vice President Kamala Harris] makes a visit, and third, traveling to the actual border would be akin to admitting that over three million encounters, including over 100 aliens on the terrorist watchlist, thousands of documented criminals, thousands of pounds of narcotics seizures, over 1,500 border deaths, and 600,000 documented got-a-ways, all while leaving hundreds of miles of border completely undefended, might indicate that there is actually a problem with his open borders policies,” Mr. Scott said.
Sen. John Cornyn, a Texan who has been a key Republican on immigration over the years, took to Twitter to blast Mr. Biden’s statement.
“Mr. President, the border crisis is without a doubt the single largest humanitarian & security crisis facing our nation. And you just don’t care,” he wrote.
Early in his tenure Mr. Biden tapped Ms. Harris to figure out ways to cut the flow of people showing up at the southern border, earning her the nickname of border czar.
She made a widely ridiculed trip to the border in June 2021, but hasn’t been back since.
Ms. Jean-Pierre said what Mr. Biden has done on immigration is to host a summit of leaders of the Western Hemisphere in June, asking them to do more to try to keep people in place.
“He focused on real solutions, not — again, not political stunts,” the spokeswoman said.
The agreement they reached does not appear to have changed the trajectory at the border.
Ms. Jean-Pierre questioned Republicans’ commitment to border security.
“And if border security is such a top priority for Republicans officials, voting against record funding for the Department of Homeland Security is … an odd way to show that,” she said.
Mr. Biden has proposed increases in funding for the full Homeland Security Department, though he’s been relatively stingy with cash for immigration enforcement.
His proposed budget this year actually calls for less funding for CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to an analysis from the Congressional Research Service.
Mr. Biden’s remarks drew a strong rebuke from Republican lawmakers who have repeatedly urged him to get an in-person view of the U.S.-Mexico border.
– Joseph Clark contributed to this article.