Chicago leaders watch Biden, Trump border visits closely with eye on migrant arrivals

Liz Nagy Image
Friday, March 1, 2024
Chicago leaders watch Biden, Trump border visits closely
Chicago city leaders handling migrant arrivals watched President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump's border visits closely Thursday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump visited the U.S.-Mexico border Thursday, Chicago leaders watched and listened closely.

They're still waiting for their turn to talk to President Biden.

"We are seeing a city that is trying to do the job of the federal government, but we've yet to meet with the president to discuss these issues at home," said 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez.

Ald. Sigcho-Lopez traveled to the border with a Chicago delegation in October, trying to mitigate the flow of migrants and learn strategies from southern counterparts.

"Unfortunately we've seen the president able to resettle Ukrainian refugees, but yet to find solutions for a new neighbors, refugees who are entering our country fleeing violence," he said.

READ MORE: Biden and Trump deliver dueling remarks in visits at the Texas border

Since Chicago leaders visited the southern border, immigration reform and a carefully negotiated bipartisan border policy bill has stalled on Capitol Hill.

Immigration has emerged as a central issue in the 2024 presidential campaign, which is widely expected to be a Biden-Trump rematch, and each man is seeking to use the border problems to his own political advantage.

Their itineraries were remarkably similar: They arrived in Texas within a half-hour of one another. Each chose an optimal location from which to make his point, got a briefing on operations and issues, walked along the scrub brush by the Rio Grande and spoke directly to the public. Their remarks even overlapped in time for a bit.

But that's where the parallels ended.

READ MORE: Judge blocks Texas law that gives police broad powers to arrest migrants who illegally enter US

Biden sought to spotlight the necessity of a bipartisan border security bill that was tanked by Republicans on Trump's orders, and flat-out asked the Republican front-runner to join him in supporting a congressional push for more funding and tighter restrictions.

Biden went to the Rio Grande Valley city of Brownsville, which for nine years was the busiest corridor for illegal crossings. The numbers have dropped in recent months, which officials credited in part to Mexico for stepping up its own border security. The visit was a nod to how the Biden administration views migration: as a regional and global issue, not just a U.S. problem.

Trump simply blamed Biden.

He traveled to Eagle Pass, roughly 325 miles northwest of Brownsville, in the corridor that's currently seeing the largest number of migrant crossings. He met with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas National Guard soldiers who have commandeered a local park and put up razor wire fencing at the river's edge to keep migrants from crossing illegally. The park has become a Republican symbol of defiance against the federal government.

As Chicago sits in something of winter lull for migrant arrivals, local leaders are still begging for the president to do the one thing no one else can.

"The one thing that could help all of this situation is the president, through executive order, to expand an expedite work permits for all," said 40th Ward Alderman Andre Vasquez.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.