In anticipation of Speaker Mike Johnson’s visit to the U.S. southern border on Wednesday, the White House issued a statement accusing House GOP members of avoiding the chance to address the very issue they’ve been criticizing.
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates, in a statement obtained by POLITICO ahead of two days of Republican border visits, stated, “Actions speak louder than words. House Republicans’ anti-border security record is defined by attempting to cut Customs and Border Protection personnel, opposing President Biden’s record-breaking border security funding, and refusing to take up the President’s supplemental funding request.”
Republicans have consistently criticized Biden’s handling of the southern border since the beginning of his term, often asserting that he downplayed, neglected, or worsened a historic migrant influx through Mexico. They are now aiming to make the border a key issue in the 2024 elections and place responsibility for the increase in migrants on the president.
Public sentiment appears to align with Republican concerns. A Pew Research Center poll conducted late last year found that only 32 percent of U.S. adults are very confident or somewhat confident in the president’s ability to make “wise decisions about immigration policy.”
The White House counters these criticisms by arguing that Republicans share the blame. They point to the GOP‘s rejection of Biden’s supplemental funding package, which included funds for hiring new border agents, asylum officers, and immigration judges, as well as technology to combat the flow of fentanyl. White House officials also highlight the rejection of the comprehensive immigration reform plan introduced by the president shortly after taking office.
“After voting in 2023 to eliminate over 2,000 Border Patrol agents and erode our capacity to seize fentanyl earlier in 2023, House Republicans left Washington in mid-December even as President Biden and Republicans and Democrats in the Senate remained to forge ahead on a bipartisan agreement,” Bates explained.
Bates’ comments underscore the extent to which the immigration debate has shifted, with each side now vying to present a more robust and effective approach to border security. These discussions occur at a critical legislative juncture, as Senate negotiators seek a bipartisan agreement to address migration, and House Republicans consider the possibility of impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the issue.
A spokesperson for Johnson dismissed the criticism, claiming that Biden has been “derelict in his duty to protect” the border. The spokesperson, Raj Shah, stated, “While the president requests more funds—not to stop illegal immigration but to process more illegal immigrants through their ‘catch and release’ policy—he has undermined security at every turn.”
Johnson, accompanied by dozens of colleagues, plans to tour a U.S. Border Patrol facility near Eagle Pass, Texas, on Wednesday. On Thursday, the GOP lawmakers will meet with local law enforcement, officials, and landowners.
Johnson had previously urged Biden to take executive action on border crossings, stating in a letter last month that the southern border “is being overrun” and that the “catastrophe requires your administration’s full attention and commitment.”