President Biden gave only the briefest of mentions Tuesday to the chaos at the southern border, acknowledging “problems” but saying his policies have finally begun to eat into record numbers of migrants coming from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela.
He did ask lawmakers to find agreement on plans to legalize illegal immigrants, and particularly “Dreamers,” the young adult illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
“Let’s also come together on immigration and make it a bipartisan issue once again,” the president said in his State of the Union address.
He took a quick victory lap on the border, saying there are now “a record number of personnel working to secure the border.” And he said there were arrests of 8,000 smugglers and seizures of 23,000 pounds of fentanyl in recent months.
He also said the launch of a program that forged a new pathway for migrants from Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba and Nicaragua has succeeded in shifting the flow to legal arrivals. He said illegal crossings from those countries are down 97%.
His remarks came roughly a month after his first trip to the Mexican border and just hours after two senior Border Patrol officials painted a decidedly different picture of the border situation, citing an increase in the number of terrorism suspects detected, a rise in fentanyl being trafficked and an increase in border deaths.
Those realities have left Republicans with little appetite for Mr. Biden’s calls to legalize the millions of current illegal immigrants. They say the priority should be securing the border.
Acknowledging those headwinds, Mr. Biden said he hoped they could at least strike a deal “to provide the equipment and officers to secure the border, and a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, those on temporary status, farm workers and essential workers.”