WASHINGTON — President Biden said Wednesday that he plans to make his first visit as president to the US-Mexico border next week to observe the effects of record-breaking illegal immigration.
“That’s my intention,” Biden said during a trip to Kentucky when asked if he was “going to the border.”
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Wednesday, citing “people familiar with the discussions,” that “the White House [was] strongly considering adding a visit” when Biden travels to Mexico City on Monday and Tuesday for meetings with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.
The visit is meant to help head off criticism of the president from Republicans and border-state leaders — but it could raise liabilities for Biden, who has sought to keep his distance from the humanitarian emergency that critics blame on his policies.
Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip in June 2021 to Guatemala and Mexico was overshadowed by her struggle to explain her own reluctance to visit the border, which she ultimately did weeks later in her role as Biden’s designee to stem the migrant surge.
Biden presided over nearly 2.4 million illegal border-crossing arrests in fiscal year 2022, which ended Sept. 30, up from 1.7 million in fiscal 2021, fewer than 500,000 in 2020 and nearly 1 million in 2019. Those figures do not include migrants who evaded arrest.
Biden has not visited the border as president and it’s unclear if he ever made a specific border visit during his five-decade political career.
The White House has provided reporters with just one example in which Biden “briefly drove past the border” after landing at El Paso’s airport in 2008 for an event in New Mexico. Biden’s motorcade took “a route that for a few minutes hugs the border of the United States and Mexico.”
The president flew to Arizona on Dec. 6 to give a 16-minute speech at a computer-chips factory, but said he could not visit the nearby US-Mexico border because he had “more important things” to do.
“I guess I should go down,” Biden said at a CNN town hall in October 2021. “But the whole point of it is I haven’t had a whole hell of a lot of time to get down.”