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GOP Has a Big New Theme Against Biden

Kevin McCarthy, others highlight 'border crisis'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2021 11:27 AM CDT

(Newser) – The pandemic may still be issue No. 1, but another topic is fast becoming a major issue for both parties—the border. Republicans say looser immigration policies under President Biden have created a crisis, while Democrats blame Donald Trump for leaving behind a broken system. Coverage:

  • GOP critics: "There's no other way to claim it than a Biden border crisis," said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy upon a visit to Texas on Monday, per USA Today. McCarthy said border patrol agents told him suspected terrorists were trying to cross, and Newsweek reports that GOP Rep. John Katko echoed that claim.
  • Pushback: Democrats disputed the allegations about terrorists and demanded evidence, reports the Washington Post. "Weird as the Chairman of the subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations and a border state member of Congress haven't heard anything about this," tweeted Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat. "Gonna ask for a briefing. Pretty sure he is either wrong or lying," he said of McCarthy.

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  • The politics: NBC News sees this as a strategic shift by Republicans to turn immigration into a hot topic ahead of the 2022 midterms. That makes sense given that Biden is getting generally high marks for his handling of the pandemic, notes an analysis at the Post. "The Republicans will turn around and use this for a political weapon against Democrats—that we're weak on the border, we're not doing enough, we're letting everybody in," says moderate Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar. "I've been warning the party and the administration: Don't let this get out of hand, because all you're going to do is you're going to give Republicans an issue."
  • Democrats, too: Cuellar isn't the only Democrat worried, notes the Hill. "Whatever message was sent—it was sure interpreted the wrong way," says West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, referring to Biden's unwinding of some Trump immigration laws. "It's a crisis—oh, it's a crisis." In terms of signals from Biden, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said last week that Central Americans "see him as the migrant president."
  • Numbers up: Illegal crossings are way up since Biden became president. More than 100,000 detentions were logged in February, up 28% from the previous month. And as of Sunday, the Border Patrol was holding 4,200 unaccompanied minors, up 31% from the previous week, reports CBS News. (The issue of minors is particularly acute.)
  • In defense: "The Biden administration is trying to fix the broken system that was left to them by the Trump administration," Nancy Pelosi said Sunday House press chief Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that the administration is facing "a significant problem and a significant challenge, and I think we haven't ... been hiding about that."
(Read more immigration stories.)

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