President Joe Biden has not visited the U.S.-Mexico border since taking office nearly two years ago — despite Republicans demanding that he do so to better understand the record number of immigration arrests and crossings by asylum-seekers.
When asked last week why he wouldn't visit the southern border on his way to Arizona, President Biden said that there are "more important things going on."
The response was met with backlash from Texas Republicans, the largest GOP delegation in Congress.
“We’re all left wondering what's more important," said Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas. "Is our sovereignty as a nation not important?"
Republican Rep. August Pfluger of Texas has traveled to the border and supported former President Donald Trump’s approach to stem the flow of crossings. Pfluger says he believes that if Biden visited, he would be too.
“If he goes down there, I'm certain that he will see what I've seen in my multiple trips, which is a border that is not secure, which are horrors and tragedies that are unspeakable,” Pfluger told Spectrum News.
“Not to mention the fact that you get a chance to look in the eyes of these men and women in uniform, the Border Patrol agents, CBP, you know, writ large, you look them in the eye. And right now, it is absolutely tragic,” he added.
White House officials have been asked repeatedly about this throughout Biden’s nearly two years in office. They’ve responded by pointing to how the administration has introduced its own immigration reform plan, secured funding for more enforcement and worked with leaders in Central America to address the root causes of why people are leaving their countries for the U.S.
This past week, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas traveled to Ecuador and Colombia.
“We’re asking for Republican officials to come and work with us and let’s have a bipartisan agreement on immigration, instead of doing political stunts,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a news briefing last week.
One immigration expert questioned how substantive one border trip by the president would be and suggested such visits are partisan.
“When you have that long of a border, we have so many impacted stakeholders — when it comes to immigrant arrivals to the U.S.-Mexico border, one trip isn't going to be enough,” Cristobal Ramon, an independent immigration policy consultant, told Spectrum News.
Ramon said the U.S.'s "biggest problem" is, in fact, the immigration policy debate. He says the problems have gotten bigger and have stretched from the "U.S.-Mexico border all the way down to South America."
Cristobal Ramon suggested that a working group that meets and communicates regularly would perhaps be more worthwhile and that the issue has to be looked at the local, federal and global levels.
“Sending the president to these regions helps ... in terms of making some political gains. But at the end of the day, the more important thing is what policies are coming out of these discussions, and how are they going to be implemented, Ramon said. "And I think that's something that's really important that no visit will actually generate.”
Generating a bipartisan solution amid record migration to the southern border remains a challenge.