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From the New York Times, I'm Sabrina Tavernisi, and this is The Daily. On Thursday, the two presumptive colonies for President, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, traveled to Texas, where they gave dueling speeches on what is shaping up to be perhaps the most important issue in the 2024 election, the flow of migrants across the border. Today, my colleague, White House Correspondent Zolen Kenno Youngs, on Biden's risky bid to take Trump's biggest advantage and use it against him. It's Friday, March first. So Zolen, both President Biden and former President Trump visit visited the border in Texas on Thursday. It's 6:00 PM, they just finished talking. It was this split screen performance, right? These dueling speeches one after the other. Tell us what happened.


Well, these dueling trips to the border really do show us that we are in the general election at this point. The fact that both of the likely colonies chose to travel to the border really does show you just how much immigration has rise to be one of the most important concerns amongst voters. Recent polling also shows that, and that coincides with a record number of crossings at the Southwest border. It's not just limited to states along the border, but you have migrant surges in cities throughout the United States. It's increasingly becoming a huge political vulnerability for the White House. You see the former president trying to seize on that vulnerability.


Okay, so that's why these two men go down there. What do they say when they're down there? Describe the scene for me.


What you saw were two different leaders who, in very different ways, tried to convince Americans that they are best suited to address this humanitarian issue.


That's great, governor. Thank you very much, everybody. This is an honor.


For the former president, he goes to Eagle Pass, Texas, standing just near the Rio Grande.


Walls and wheels, I always said. It's one thing never gets obsolete, a wall and a wheel.


He's near a makeshift border barrier, topped with razor wire as well. You see the optics of trying to look tough on the border. He once again tried to seize on this issue to stoke division and hate.


Just four days ago, an illegal alien in Louisiana was arrested for brutally raping a 14-year-old girl while holding a knife to her throat. He then allegedly robbed a man who getting out of his car in front of his home and repeatedly stabbed him in the face, in the back, in the face many, many times.


He even used warlike language when describing this issue.


That's incredible. I'll say this, it's a military operation.


He called it a military operation.


I mean, we have a military... This is like a war.


You definitely saw the former president return to that anti-immigration strategy to attack Democrats.


It's an honor to have your support and your endorsement, and likewise, me to you. Thank you very much. Great to be here. Thank you.


Essentially, today, we saw Trump being Trump on immigration, doubling down on the same demogagri that he's been using, really, since he first declared his run for presidency back in 2015.


Right. The rhetoric is familiar, but let's be clear what the former president is planning, if he's elected, would go even further than the policy policies that we saw when he was in office. My colleagues have reported already that former President Trump is drawing up policies that take his immigration crack down even further. He's planning on sending agents out into the country to round up undocumented immigrants, scale up as well, giant camps to detain undocumented immigrants, re-institute travel bans as well, including the travel bans that were against Muslim-majority countries when he was in office. They're even considering trying to end birthright citizenship, which basically says that babies born in the United States to undocumented parents would be entitled to American citizenship. Without a doubt, while former President Trump's remarks today may seem familiar, you should know that what he's planning, if he's elected to office, would take his anti-immigration agenda a step further.


Okay, so that's the Trump side of the split screen. What did Biden do?


In a way, when you look at President Biden's remarks, it was very different. Hello, folks.


Good afternoon.


Before we start- For one, he wasn't in front of carriers or razor wire. He was inside a government facility standing alongside border patrol agents, outlining a bill that was recently negotiated in the Senate.


Then months ago, my team began a serious negotiation in a bipartisan group of senators, leading conservative Republicans.


This legislation would have enacted some of the more conservative changes to the border that we've seen in decades.


It's the toughest set of border security reforms we've ever seen in this country. It's pretty basic.


Rapidly turning away migrants at the border, also making it more difficult for migrants to obtain asylum at the border, as well as bolstering resources at the border. It had a lot the measures that Republicans have been calling for for years. But House Republicans, taking a cue from former President Trump, tanked that legislation. Many of them would prefer that it was an issue that could be used to attack the President and didn't want to deliver him a policy win in an election year. Today, you saw President Biden criticizing them for it.


It's time for the speakers and some of my Republican friends in Congress were blocking this bill to show a little spine saying that they were putting politics over, actually, solutions to this. Let's remember who we work for, for God's sake. We work for the American people.


But then towards the end of his remarks.


I understand my predecessors's legal past today. Here's what I would say to Mr. Trump.


We heard something that I haven't heard before, a direct dare to former President Trump to actually join President Biden in working together to actually address this issue.


Join me or I'll join you in telling the Congress to pass this bipartisan border security bill. We can do it together. You know and I know it's the toughest, most efficient, most effective border security bill this country has ever seen.


And there you really see, possibly more so than we've seen thus far in the Biden era, President Biden directly challenging the border security bona fides of the former President.


There's There's nothing, nothing beyond our capacity, nothing when we work together. And if all things we should be working together on is this, we have the foremen to get it done. God bless you all. May God protect our border patrol and may God protect our troops. Now, I'd like to turn this over to Secretary Mayorkas. Thank you.


As someone who's been covering this for some years now, I didn't expect something that was as direct as those comments today. It not only shows just how much Democrats are intent on emphasizing border security in this election season, but it also affirmed that the White House is really going to lean into this strategy of going on the offensive on border security.


This is interesting. Biden is not only saying that he, too, cares about border security, and he wants to really crack down on crossings, something we haven't heard from Democrats so much of late. But now he's turning it around on the Republicans, actually going on the offensive, saying, not only am I tough on this, they're actually weak on this. They're the ones who won't do anything to fix it. They're the problem. It's on them.


They're the ones that are neglecting this crisis. We are the ones that are actually proposing solutions for this. But I have to say this is really going to be challenging for the White House and President Biden. You have this real difficult balancing act of explaining the legislative challenges and talking about your legislative proposals for this crisis. But that's going up against Trump's strategy of stoking division and stoking anger on this issue. Former President Trump has proven that he can galvanize his base with his strategy. Whether or not this works, that's something to watch moving forward.


It's a triple axel, right? When you think about it, he's trying to get a regular voter to see the border crisis, to look at what's happening on the border. Instead of just blaming the guy in charge, him, he's asking that voter to understand that there was this bipartisan bill in Congress, that Biden himself had endorsed it, was prepared to sign it, that he would have been tough on border issues, but that the Republicans wouldn't bring it to a vote because Trump didn't want them to. It's not a simple message. It's much easier for Trump. All he has to do is say, Hey, the border's a mess. The other guy's in charge. Blame him.


Yes, I think that's right. Even listening to his remarks today, there's layers to it, right? He's trying to outline the legislative challenges here, which is, to be fair, very Biden. But without a Now, what was surprising, again, is for most of his time in office, immigration in the border has been a thorn in the present side, almost a political headache, something that Democrats tried to distance themselves from. Now you're seeing them lean in and emphasize border security and almost say, We are the ones that will address this issue.


We'll be right back. Zolan, how did we get here? I mean, how did we go from Biden avoiding this immigration issue, like the plague, to tiptoeing into it, to now trying to use it as a cuddle against Trump?


I mean, to understand this, you really have to go back to Biden's 2020 campaign.


We believe in freedom of Religion. That's why I will end the Muslim ban.


This was, of course, after the anti-immigration agenda that President Trump implemented that included a travel ban against Muslim-majority countries.


They got separated from their parents, and it makes us a laughing stock and violates every notion of who we are as a nation.


And that included extreme policies at the border, such as family separation, that Democrats spent their time during the 2020 campaign, condemning. So, of course, coming into office, you had Democrats using language that was much more pro-immigration Within 100 days, I'm going to send to the United States Congress a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people. You heard the President pledge to restore humanity, order, compassion to the immigration system. System.


And those who come seeking asylum, we should immediately have the capacity to absorb them, keep them safe until they can be heard. A 15 second, if you could.


But practically on the ground, there were some Trump Air policies that did stay in place. That included something known as Title 42. This was a pandemic emergency rule that essentially sealed the border to asylum seekers. The administration also began to deport Haitian migrants back to Haiti as well. There were photos of border patrol agents trying to keep migrants from entering into the country.


Right, I remember that.


While rhetorically, we were hearing often about compassion and humanity on the ground, we were seeing once again a reliance on deterrence.


Okay, so during the campaign in 2020, he was speaking the language of the left in large part as a reaction to the extreme policies that Trump had enacted. But he quickly moderated.


Yeah, that's right. Even though some of those policies were in place, the number of crossings continued to grow. Some of that's outside of the president's control. I mean, in the wake of the pandemic, of climate the change of a global migration trend, as well as the perception that the election of President Biden would mean a more welcoming approach to the border, you had nationalities from all over the world attempting to cross into the United States. As this problem continued to grow worse and crossings continued to surge, the pressure is really building on the White House. Republicans relentlessly are asking President Biden when he's going to go to the border. I was actually with Vice President Kamala Harris when she traveled to Guatemala to address the root causes of migration. Even there, she was being asked, Why are you here and not at the US-Mexico border? Initially, those requests were dismissed by top White House officials as that's just going to be political theater. But eventually, they did succumb to the pressure and each make a visit to the border.


Biden and Harris go to the border eventually, but there's a real reluctance to engage with this at all publicly.


Yeah, that's right. Republicans at the time really did sense an opening. In the spring of 2022, We have a pivotal moment that we all know well by now. This is when Texas Governor Greg Abbott starts to put vulnerable migrant families and bus them to cities led by Democrats. This continues to escalate. I remember getting a call one morning from a source who said that a bus of migrants had been dropped off in front of the vice president's residence as well. Oh, my goodness. It is important to remember, much of this was happening without giving a heads up to some of the organizations or officials in these cities. One result, though, is this only exacerbates a humanitarian crisis, but also a political crisis for the White House.


It causes, of course, a crisis for these cities. We've covered this in New York. Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Hochul are up in arms. They're demanding funding from the federal government. They're even going to Mexico to say, Don't come.


Exactly. Now you have Democratic mayors that are saying they're concerned not just about their municipal budgets, but also the political pressure that they are facing as well as more and more migrants are bused into these cities. As a result, many of those Democratic leaders turn that pressure back on the White House and say, We need to get some control over this issue.


Right. They're criticizing the Biden administration directly. It's not just Republican officials, it's his own party coming after him for this.


That's exactly right. Look, after a legal fight, Title 42 was lifted, and the administration is scrambling for solutions to the border. Then this interesting thing happens, which is that the issue of the border no longer just impacts immigration and the president's domestic agenda, but also threatens to impact his foreign policy agenda. Biden and the White House have seen rallying support for Ukraine as one of his crowning achievements. But Republicans increasingly make it clear that if he wants to continue to do that, they will only support him if he moves forward with changes at the border.


While it might have seemed like the Republicans were actually forcing Biden to address the border, actually Biden wanted to address the border for all the reasons you're describing, and this was his chance to do it.


Right. So publicly, you would hear the White House at this point say, Look, we need to pass this aid for Ukraine. Lives are at stake overseas. The White House officials think that's true, absolutely. But I also talked to present allies, to Democrats who were saying, Hey, look, these negotiations here actually may present an opportunity. This may be a way to enact some of the policies that maybe in closed-door meetings, we've discussed that we want, that we need, but in the past, couldn't speak about publicly because of the backlash you would get from immigration advocates and the progressive flank of the party. But also it could be a way for the President to say, Look, Republicans, you guys have criticized me over this crisis throughout my presidency. Well, here's a solution. It not only will be key for my foreign policy agenda, but it also is a way to actually implement some of the restrictions that have been so polarizing within the party and past years. But now is the time where we have an opportunity to implement some of those border restrictions. So Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans at this point are working out a bill that would turn away, Many asylum seekers make it harder to gain asylum while increasing resources at the border.


The White House is behind Senate Democrats continuing to support that bill. You're also seeing the present lean in a bit more into these negotiations. Towards the end of last year, while facing questions from reporters, there was a pivotal moment where he said, No, I am open to significant compromises at the border.


Yeah, so this is the big shift, right? Biden is now seeing the immigration issue, and he's endorsing some very, very restrictive policies on the border, not as a concession he's willing to make just to get Ukraine funding. He's actually seeing these very restrictive policies as good politics for him within his own party.


Right. We continue to see the White House go even further in this direction. When the House Republicans sink this bill, taking a cue from former President Trump, who preferred that it be an issue to be used against the White House rather than a policy win for President Biden. You start to see the White House continue to lean in. He echoes the language once used by the Trump administration saying, Look, if you had sent me this bill, I would shut down the border. That leads to today, where you have really seen them try to attempt this offensive strategy. Remember, visit Using the border was once something that was almost taboo within the party. You did it when you faced calls to visit. But now you have President Biden going using the border as a backdrop and saying, No longer will the Democratic Party be accused of not putting forward solutions to this crisis. But actually, it's the Republicans that are neglecting what is one of the more pressing issues in this nation.


Okay, so that explains why Biden had decided to go on the offensive on this issue. But as we said, this is very hard, right? Let's play this out. If this somehow works, what will Biden's immigration strategy actually look like? I mean, for Biden, to be on the offensive on this difficult issue as the campaign really ramps up.


Well, I think that you can expect him to continue to call Congress to do something about this. But let's be clear, they are considering going at this themselves as well. My colleagues and I reported last week that the White House right now is considering executive actions that would essentially replicate some of what was being negotiated in that Senate bipartisan bill. That includes measures that It would make it harder for migrants to obtain asylum at the border and essentially allowing the President to shut down the border if crossings surpassed a certain amount. That would be a drastic change.


Very radical.


Right. I mean, it would be some of the most conservative, restrictive changes we've seen definitely under the Biden White House. But this is challenging. This is tricky, right? For really throughout the Biden presidency, Usually, Republicans have been saying, There's more you can do on the border by yourself, even though the President has said, Congress needs to take action on this issue.


Basically making the point that, Hey, guy, if you're doing this now, why didn't you do it three years ago, right?


Why didn't you do it three years ago? I've already been told by border patrol agents and Trump allies that that is something that they would question the White House on if they issue these executive actions. Then also, he would face pressure as well from the progressive flank of his party. You already have progressives that have said this strategy by the White House is playing a game designed by Republicans in a way. Remember, progressives and Democrats have historically called for legalization as a trade-off for border security. If he moves forward with these actions, you have to wonder, would he face even more pressure from the progressive flank of his party? So he's getting squeezed politically. Then even if he was going to take action here, there's also a question about whether he would even be able to implement it. Executive actions when it comes to immigration often run into legal trouble. They often run into the courts. Even if he were to go at it alone. You're likely going to see a legal fight ensue.


Okay, so this is very fraught on a number of different fronts. If it backfires, really it leaves him out there in the wind drawing lots of attention to his biggest vulnerability in front of the whole country. He could end up looking really bad, not just to the people who want him to be tough on the border, but also to the progressives who are mad that he's trying to do this in the first place.


I think that's right. I mean, one thing that is certain about this shift, this strategy by the White House, is it's going to put the spotlight on this crisis. It's going to put the spotlight on this issue. It's going to the spotlight on a policy that historically, Republicans have wanted more attention on. Look, the White House has been squeezed on the border and immigration since President Biden came into office. There's no easy solutions for really addressing it. All of that amounts to why it's one of the more frustrating issues that he currently has.


But then again, if, and it's a big if, of course, Biden is able to pull off that high wire act of turning this issue back on the Republicans and Trump, specifically, it will have neutralized what has been a very potent issue for the Republicans, which would justify the risk, right?


I think that's right. That's certainly what the White House is hoping for. This is all part of an effort to do a course correction in a way and meet Americans where they're at. Polls indicate that Americans do want more restrictions at the border. Just recent polling this week showed that that immigration has surpassed the economy as the most important issue right now in this election cycle. Other polling as well showed that Americans do support some of the measures, the restrictive measures that were in that bipartisan Senate bill. You can see why the White House is attempting this shift.


Actually, weirdly, this issue that's been so contentious in our country is becoming something of a consensus issue.


In a way, yeah. I mean, I still think this is one of the more intractable, divisive issues facing the country. Many public officials prefer to attack their opponents over it rather than actually solve it. But moving beyond just the politics, moving beyond just today, look, you're right. There's increasing support for border security measures in this country when you look at both parties. When you have With the two leaders of each respective party that are both emphasizing that they are the right ones to implement those border security measures, it's safe to assume that there's increasing momentum for major changes to the way that our country welcomes asylum seekers at the border.


Zolen, thank you.


Thank you.


We'll be right back. Here's what else you should know today. A federal court blocked a Texas law that would allow state and local police officers to to arrest migrants crossing in from Mexico without authorisation. The law had been set to take effect on March fifth. The ruling was a victory for the Biden administration, which had argued that the law would violate federal statutes and the Constitution, which gives authority over immigration matters to the federal government. Texas governor Greg Abbott has aggressively worked to create a state-level system of border enforcement. He said he would appeal the decision immediately. And... A convoy of trucks carrying food aid into Gaza City was overrun by thousands of desperate Gazans in the early hours of Thursday morning, prompting chaos and a response from nearby Israeli soldiers that left more than 100 people dead and another 700 wounded. The details of what happened were still unclear as of Thursday night. Gazan authorities blamed the Israeli soldiers, saying that the deaths were caused by gunshot wounds. Israeli officials countered, saying that the majority of those who had died had been killed in a stampede several hundred yards away. Gazans in the north of the territory have become increasingly desperate for food, as the United Nations and other relief groups have been largely unable to bring supplies due to impassable roads, risk for military operations, and increasingly lawless and breakdown of social order after nearly five months of war.


Today's episode was produced by Shannon Lynn and Claire Tunis-Sketter, with help from Sydney Harper and Kate Lopresti. It was edited by Paige Cawet and Michael Benoît, with help from Brenda Clinkenberg. Contains original music by Marion Lozano, and was engineered by Alyssa Moxley. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Lansberg of WNDERly. The Daily is made by Rachel Quester, Lindsay Garrison, Claire Tennisgetter, Paige Cawet, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Christopher Wood, Jessica Chum, Stella Tan, Alexandra Lee Young, Lisa Chou, Eric Krupke, Mark George, Luke Van der Plug, MJ Davis Lynn, Dan Powell, Sydney Harper, Michael Benoît, Liz O'Balen, Asda Cheturvedi, Rochelle Banja, Diana Wyn, Marion Lozano, Cory Schruppel, Rob Zypko, Alicia Baitu, Muj Zady, Patricia Willens, Ron Niemistow, Jody Becker, Ricky Nowetzky, John Ketchum, Nina Feldman, Will Reid, Carlos Prieto, Ben Calhoun, Susan Lee, Lexie Diao, Mary Wilson, Alex Stern, Dan Farrell, Sophia Landman, Shannon Lynn, Diane Wong, Devon Taylor, Alyssa Moxley, Summer Tamad, Olivia Nat, Daniel Ramirez, and Brenda Clinkenberg. Special thanks to Lisa Tobin, Sam Dolnik, Paula Schumann, Larissa Anderson, Julia Simon, Sophia Milan, Mahima Chablani, Elizabeth Davis-Moure, Jeffrey Miranda, Rinan Barreli, Maddie Messiello, Isabella Anderson, and Nina Lassam. That's it for The Daily.


I'm Sabrina Tavernisi. See you on Monday.