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Donald Trump and Joe Biden promise tough immigration measures during rival visits to Texas

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In two Texas border towns, President Biden and former President Trump made dueling visits.

They were 300 miles apart but with an identical objective: to take political advantage of the immigration crisis which will be one of the determining issues of the 2024 elections.

The Biden administration has allowed a record number of border crossings, an increase that Republicans have used to characterize the president as weak on the issue.

In Brownsville, Texasa city that has historically seen large influxes of migrants, Mr. Biden made only his second visit to the border, but this time promising change.

“It’s very simple. It’s time to act, it’s high time to act,” he said.

President Biden visited Brownsville, Texas.  Photo: Reuters
Picture:
President Biden visited Brownsville, Texas. Photo: Reuters

He also accused Mr. Trump of scoring political points after a bipartisan bill, which would have led to a border crackdown, was thwarted by Republicans encouraged by the former president.

“You know and I know that this is the strongest, strongest, most effective border security bill this country has ever seen,” he said.

“So instead of playing politics on this, why don’t we just get together and make this happen?” »

A section of the border fence
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A section of the border fence in Texas

Immigration is a happier hunting ground for Mr. Trump. His rhetoric on the issue has become more extreme in recent months, including when he said immigrants were “poisoning the blood” of America.

But that appears to have only enlivened his base, with polls suggesting his advantage over President Biden on immigration is increasing.

Speaking from Eagle Pass, Texas, against the backdrop of a barbed wire fence, Mr. Trump captured the flash point of the murder of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student killed in Georgia.

The man accused of her murder is a Venezuelan migrant, previously arrested for crossing the border illegally in 2022 and then released, before being arrested in New York and then released again.

Donald Trump said the United States was
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Donald Trump says US is ‘overwhelmed by Biden’s migrant crime’

“The United States is overrun by Biden’s migrant crime,” he said. “Migrant-related crime is a new form of brutal violation of our country.”

Mr. Trump’s remarks are also reverberating in other border cities.

In the isolated town of Jacumba Hot Springs, California, where migrants often cross the border, I meet a group of a dozen veterans outside a casino.

They are part of an organized convoy heading towards the border to, they say, strengthen the defenses.

A group of veterans headed to the border to strengthen defenses
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A group of veterans headed to the border to strengthen defenses

I accompany Derrek Cardinale, a former shipping and real estate agent, in his white van. The conversation quickly turns to immigration and the terrorist threat.

“It only takes one to cause another September 11 or another October 7 in Israel,” he said.

“I have four children and I saw this young girl Laken Riley recently murdered by a Venezuelan who is here illegally. My wife travels with my four children and she doesn’t have the training that I have to be aware all the time , so that really worries me.”

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The group installed barbed wire to plug holes in border defenses
Picture:
The group installed barbed wire to plug holes in border defenses

When we arrive at the border wall separating Mexico and the United States, where the 30-foot-high fence ends, the group has deployed barbed wire atop the rocks where migrants could rush.

“What happens if someone gets caught?” I ask.

“Well, it really hurts,” one woman responds. “It’s about making sure it’s painful enough that at least they can’t come that way.”

“It’s ugly, it’s dangerous”

For migrants who make it out, their first hours in the United States often consist of sitting on city center sidewalks, outside detention centers, waiting for buses, first to transport hubs, then to the airport.

While waiting on a sidewalk in downtown San Diego, I find Maria, a 21-year-old Ecuadorian.

Maria flees chaos and violence in Ecuador
Picture:
Maria flees chaos and violence in Ecuador

She says it took her a month and 12 days to reach the United States after fleeing gang violence in her home country.

“The situation in Ecuador is ugly, it’s dangerous,” she said. “We came here for a better future, to provide for our family and stay for a while.”

Many migrants carry tracking devices placed on them by border control services, to follow them while their asylum applications are processed.

Immigration isn’t just a major political issue in border cities: Many migrants are heading to destinations across the United States, including Miami, Chicago and New York.

Greg said anyone could do better on immigration than Mr Biden
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Greg said anyone could do better on immigration than Mr Biden

At the San Diego Marina, locals and tourists admire the sunset. Laurie and Tom, from Denver, Colorado, say their city’s immigration system isn’t up to par.

“We can only handle so many people,” says Laurie.

“We only have the resources for a limited number of people and we allow people to come in and come, and something is going to break.”

Robin and Greg of Wisconsin say they will vote for Donald Trump if he is an option in November because they believe he will protect America’s borders.

“I think anyone would protect the border better than the Biden administration,” Greg says. “It doesn’t matter who it is.”

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