Biden says he'll close the border 'right now' if Congress sends him a deal

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (AP) — A bid to save a Boundary Treaty in Congress It will also open Money for UkrainePresident Joe Biden He offered fresh assurances Saturday night that he would be willing to close the U.S.-Mexico border if lawmakers send a bill to sign.

Biden – disarming and eager GOP criticism over his handling of immigration At the border – said at one A political event in South Carolina He said he would close the border “right now” if Congress passed the proposed deal. The framework has not been formally agreed upon by Senate Democrats and Republicans, and faces an uncertain future in the GOP-controlled House.

“The bipartisan bill is good for America and will help fix our broken immigration system and allow faster access for those who deserve to be here, and Congress needs to do that,” Biden said. “That would give me as president the emergency authority to close the border until it's back under control. If that bill becomes law today, I will close the border right now and fix it quickly.

According to a deal negotiated in Congress, the United States would have to close the border if about 5,000 immigrants cross illegally on any given day. Last year some single-day totals exceeded 10,000.

Former President Donald Trump For weeks, Republicans have been under pressure to scuttle the talks. He is loathe to give Biden a victory on an issue that animated the Republican Party's successful 2016 campaign and intends to use it as he seeks to return to the White House. Negotiators appeared to have reached an agreement, but it later began to fizzle out Trump's advice to conservative lawmakers has been reinforced.

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In a statement written Friday evening, Biden said the deal would allow for “a new emergency authority” to close the border. He added: “If given that power, I will use it the day I sign the bill.”

It was a blunt statement from a Democratic president that drew surprise and shock from immigrant advocates, who said his policies did not reflect the progressive approach they had hoped for.

“Voters want to see our elected leaders work hard to fix our flawed immigration system,” said Deirdre Schiffeling, chief political and advocacy officer at the American Civil Liberties Union. The demands of the electorate must be heeded.”

But Biden is fighting on multiple fronts, dealing with an influx of asylum seekers even as he cracks down on those entering the U.S. illegally. Democrats are increasingly frustrated as asylum seekers flock to cities that lack the resources to care for them.

Responding to Biden's comments on Saturday, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., insisted that Biden does not need congressional action to close the border and called for “immediate executive action to reverse the disaster he has created.” “

Immigration is a major concern for voters in the 2024 election. Concerns about immigration rose to 35% from 27% last year in an AP-NORC poll earlier this month. A majority of Republicans, 55%, say the government should focus on immigration in 2024, while 22% of Democrats list immigration as a priority. It was 45% and 14% respectively in December 2022.

Illegal arrests Border crossings December hit an all-time high since monthly numbers from Mexico were released.

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There were 249,785 apprehensions at the Mexico border in December, up 31% from 191,112 in November, and up 13% from 222,018 in December 2022, the previous all-time high.

Mexicans had 56,236 arrests in December, while Venezuela had 46,937. Extradition flights to Venezuela In October. Arrests of Guatemalans increased, with Hondurans and Colombians rounding out the top five nationalities.

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Long report from Washington.

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