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Biden, Trump visiting the border? Whatever. Texas needs action, not more photo ops. | Opinion

Did you hear that Joe Biden and Donald Trump are visiting the Texas-Mexico border Thursday?

Whoop-de-do, right?

The current president, meeting with Border Patrol and local officials in Brownsville, and the former president, going to Eagle Pass, aren’t bringing any solutions. All either can offer is more politics and rhetoric — and when it comes to the border, we’ve got plenty of both, given the heated primary campaigns wrapping up soon.

What Texas needs is action, short- and long-term. But these rematched presidential candidates are too busy looking for political advantage from an extended crisis that has shot to the top of voters’ concerns in polls — and not just Republicans.

Biden has pushed for legislation in Congress. But with the House and Senate so closely divided between the parties, the compromise offered up was far short of what’s needed. It would have allowed too much illegal immigration to continue and failed to adequately reform asylum laws.

Now, Biden is relishing Republicans’ rejection of the bill against them. That’s politically smart, but it will go only so far. The current crisis is squarely on Biden’s ledger. It doesn’t help him, either, that he can’t seem to decide whether he can or should use executive action to at least set new priorities for border enforcement.

Trump, of course, is a chaos agent as usual on the matter. He reportedly pushed congressional Republicans to hold off on the bill — or at least they perceived that was in his and their best political interests. So, we’re treated to the head-scratching spectacle of leaders declaring an unprecedented emergency that can wait until after November’s election to address.

Trump can surely be counted on to take sweeping executive action if he’s elected. But much of it will be bound up in court, and the next Democratic president can easily reverse it. Neither party is willing to compromise enough to actually get some of what they want codified into law, so we play ping pong between conservative and liberal approaches and never get to the long-range immigration issues that the country must address.

We’ve said that rather than try to solve everything all at once, Congress needs to build toward consensus. First, act on border security and asylum to stem the tide. Then, the parties can negotiate on things Democrats prioritize, such as the status of “Dreamers” brought to the U.S. at a young age, and top Republican concerns, which now include what to do with millions of migrants who’ve entered the country illegally during Biden’s term.

For now, as Biden and Trump will show us Thursday, everything is in the political realm. The issue might get a little better for Biden thanks, ironically, to Gov. Greg Abbott thumbing his nose at the president’s administration over the situation in Eagle Pass. Abbott refused to remove razor wire placed by the state, and the feds haven’t forced a confrontation over it, other than in the legal system. Illegal immigration through the area has dropped dramatically as a result.

But Biden has a huge deficit in polls over which candidate voters trust on the issue. He needs to shore up the Hispanic vote, too. A slow but sure shift to the GOP is evident among Mexican-American communities like the ones Biden and Trump are visiting.

Let’s try not to forget the human consequences, either, of both rampant illegal immigration and the reaction to it. In Georgia, a nursing student out for a run last week was killed, and a Venezuelan immigrant has been charged in the crime. The suspect, Jose Antonio Ibarra, was reportedly released into the country in 2022 despite being caught entering illegally.

It remains true, as immigrant advocates point out, that migrants commit less crime than citizens. But it’s also a fact that if not for such loose immigration policies, Riley would still be alive.

Closer to home, Attorney General Ken Paxton is targeting a small Catholic charity, Annunciation House of El Paso, accusing it of helping smuggle migrants into the country. The group says it helps homeless migrants who need shelter and assists with asylum applications. Perhaps it crossed a line, but given Paxton’s history, it’s just as possible he’s using the courts for maximum political gain on the issue. And his lawsuit could have a chilling effect on the groups that spend considerable money and effort to help immigrants who desperately need it.

Let’s hope this real-life harm on all sides of the issue stays front of mind as the predictable politics of the Biden/Trump show play out.

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