President Joe Biden intends to visit the U.S.-Mexico border — his first trip there since taking office — in connection with his meeting next week in Mexico City with the leaders of Mexico and Canada. “That’s my intention, we’re working out the details now,” Biden told reporters Wednesday during a trip to Kentucky.
READ | Biden re-nominates Eric Garcetti as US ambassador to India
Biden said upon his return to the White House that he hoped to see “what’s going on” at the border and also planned to make remarks about border security on Thursday.
There have been large increases in the number of migrants at the border even as a U.S. public health law remains in place that allows American authorities to turn away many people seeking asylum in the United States. Republican leaders have criticized the president for policies that they say are ineffective on border security and they have questioned why he has not made a trip there yet.
The increased focus from Biden on the border also comes as the president prepares for a 2024 reelection bid. His sole declared potential rival, Donald Trump, rose to the top of the GOP ranks by animating the party’s base voters with his hardline stances on immigration.
But there was some praise Wednesday after the news.
READ | Biden has nominated Indian-American lawyer diplomat for top diplomatic position in State Department
“I’m pleased President Biden will finally visit our southern border – which has been completely surrendered to the cartels, smugglers, and human traffickers,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has been a critic of administration policies.
Among the complaints on border security by Republicans is the amount of fentanyl coming into the U.S. via Mexico. A 2022 report from a bipartisan federal commission found that fentanyl and similar drugs are being made mostly in labs in Mexico from chemicals shipped primarily from China.
And fentanyl and other lab-produced synthetic opioids now are driving an overdose crisis deadlier than any the U.S. has ever seen. But drug control advocates and experts say an anti-drug policy that relies on tighter border security is dangerous and likely futile. The drugs are too easy to move in small, hard-to-detect quantities.
Drug trafficking and immigration are expected to be among the top talking points at the summit Monday and Tuesday when Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are hosted by Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
READ | ‘My hope this Christmas season is that…’: President Joe Biden wish for US
Early in his presidency, Biden put Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of the White House effort to tackle the migration challenge by working with Central American nations to address central causes of the problem. She visited El Paso, Texas, in June 2021 and was criticized for choosing a location too far from the epicenter of border crossings that are straining federal resources. The number of migrants crossing the border has only risen.