What Trump's and Biden's dueling border visits reveal about the 2024 election

President Biden and former President Donald Trump are both heading to the U.S.-Mexico border Thursday — this is why it matters.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden. (Chris Carlson/AP, Leah Millis/Reuters)
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The likely 2024 Democratic and Republican presidential nominees will appear about 300 miles away from each other in Texas as they try to get the upper hand on an issue that could prove decisive in November: America’s troubled immigration system.

📍 Where are they going?

Biden will travel to Brownsville, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, an area that often sees large numbers of crossings. Trump will head to Eagle Pass, Texas, another hot spot in the battle over border security.

👥 What do they plan to say?

Biden will meet with border agents and push for bipartisan legislation. “He wants to make sure he puts his message out there to the American people,” a White House spokesperson said. Trump will continue to blame Biden for what his campaign calls the “worst immigration crisis in history.”

🚫 Why is the border such a big issue?

Since Biden took office in 2021 and reversed some of Trump’s hard-line restrictions, illegal crossings at the border have surged to a record high of more than 2 million per year, on average.

👉 How do Biden supporters explain the surge in crossings?

Defenders of Biden’s record say the causes are complicated and predate his presidency: foreign wars, economic hardship and cartels that profit from crossings.

👈 How do Trump supporters explain the surge in crossings?

Critics argue that Biden has effectively encouraged migrants to try their luck by halting the Title 42 policy to turn back unaccompanied minors who arrive without a parent or guardian; using immigration parole at a historic scale for those fleeing conflict; and ordering a pause on most U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests and deportations.

📉 What do the polls show?

National surveys have shown that voters are unhappy about the border situation and prefer Republicans to handle it. A February Gallup survey found that nearly 20% of those who disapproved of Biden’s job performance cited “illegal immigration/open borders” as the biggest reason — more than any other issue.

🗳️ How has Biden changed course?

Most Democrats spent 2023 avoiding border politics while privately fretting about how the issue might affect the 2024 election. But the president finally bowed to GOP pressure last fall, agreeing to bipartisan border talks; the hope was that “a deal might take the issue off the table for his re-election campaign,” according to the New York Times.

❌ Why can't Congress pass a bipartisan border deal?

When Senate negotiators actually struck a $20 billion bipartisan deal last month — a deal that gave the GOP much of what it had asked for, including provisions that would restrict claims for parole, raise the bar for asylum, ease the expulsion of migrants and automatically shutter the border if illegal crossings reach a certain average daily threshold — Trump balked, and following his lead, Republicans on Capitol Hill effectively doomed the legislation.

📣 What did Trump say about the deal?

“This Bill is a great gift to the Democrats, and a Death Wish for The Republican Party,” Trump said on his Truth Social network. “It takes the HORRIBLE JOB the Democrats have done on Immigration and the Border, absolves them, and puts it all squarely on the shoulders of Republicans. Don’t be STUPID!!!”

🗣️ What did Biden say about the deal?

“All indications are this bill won’t even move forward to the Senate floor. Why? ... Because Donald Trump thinks it’s bad for him politically,” Biden said in remarks from the White House.

✅ What else can be done?

To show he is trying to solve the problem — with or without GOP help — Biden is considering issuing an executive order to block people who illegally cross into the U.S. from claiming asylum, perhaps before his March 7 State of the Union address. It would likely face an immediate legal challenge.