Former President Donald Trump visits the US-Mexico border on Wednesday as he seeks to reclaim the spotlight, riding a wave of Republican attacks on President Joe Biden over the rise in migrants caught entering the United States.
The trip with Texas Governor Greg Abbott to an unfinished section of border wall near Weslaco at the southern tip of Texas is the second public appearance this week by the Republican Trump, who lost to Biden, a Democrat, in a November election.
Trump pilloried Biden at an Ohio rally on Saturday, his first such event since leaving the White House, accusing him of having “dismantled America’s border defenses and incited a flood of illegal migrants like this country has never seen.”
Since taking office five months ago, Biden has reversed many of Trump’s restrictive policies and pledged a more humane system. He halted construction of Trump’s signature border wall and ended a program that forced tens of thousands of migrants to wait in Mexico pending resolution of their US asylum cases.
Under Biden, arrests at the southwest border have risen to the highest monthly levels in two decades, an increase Republicans have blamed on more welcoming policies.
Although Republicans have signaled that immigration will be a focal point of their campaign to retake control of Congress next year, Reuters/Ipsos polling of 4,420 adults suggests their attacks are having little effect.
About 10 percent of adults ranked immigration as the nation’s top priority in a June 11-17 poll, down 5 points from a similar survey in April. Among Republicans, 19 percent listed immigration as a top priority, down 10 points from April.
Americans’ approval of Biden’s handling of border issues is nearly unchanged over the past few months, with 47 percent saying they disapproved of his leadership on immigration, while 40 percent said they approved.
Biden officials say poverty, crime, corruption and the effects of climate change have driven migrants north from parts of Central America and defend the administration’s approach to the border.
More than 270,000 migrants have been picked up in the US Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector this year, making it by far the busiest stretch of the southwestern border.
Vice President Kamala Harris, whom Biden tasked with addressing the root causes of migration into the US from Central America, visited the US-Mexico border near El Paso on Friday. Many Republicans, including Trump and Abbott, took shots at Harris for not visiting sooner.
Harris urged officials to focus on practical solutions in her border visit last week, saying, “This issue cannot be reduced to a political issue. We’re talking about children, we’re talking about families, we’re talking about suffering.”
Abbott said in a statement that Harris was ignoring the “real problem areas” along the border and said she would “fail in her mission if she refuses to speak to residents of the Del Rio sector whose homes and ranches are being overrun by gangs and smugglers.”
Trump has flirted publicly with the prospect of running for president again in 2024. Abbott is also a potential contender for the Republican nomination.