(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden lambasted Republicans over the migration crisis, saying they gutted the immigration system during Donald Trump’s presidency and have since failed to provide him with necessary funding to address the situation.
“MAGA Republicans in Congress and my predecessor spent four years gutting the immigration system,” Biden said Thursday at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual gala.“They continue to undermine our border security today, blocking bipartisan reform.”
Biden said he had already delivered more than $1 billion in funds appropriated by Congress to states and cities receiving an influx of migrants.
“I’ve requested more funding, but instead of stepping up to the solution, Republicans are threatening to shut down the government,” he said.
The event was an opportunity for the president to hone his message to Latino voters as he ramps up his 2024 reelection campaign. Latinos’ attitudes toward Biden have soured, presenting a problem for a president who needs to maximize support from them to win a second term.
Biden highlighted his accomplishments including lowering the Latino unemployment rate, offering relief from student loan debt that he said fell heaviest on non-White borrowers and supporting Latino small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Read More: Thousands of Venezuelan Migrants to Be Allowed Work Permits
But immigration, which has been a sore spot for Biden, was a centerpiece of his address. Republicans have accused the president of fueling historic crossings at the US-Mexico border by supporting policies that are too welcoming toward migrants.
Some Democratic big-city leaders accepting tens of thousands of migrants, such as New York City Mayor Eric Adams, have said the administration has not provided enough support. At the same time, immigrant-rights advocates fault the president for not putting enough political capital behind a push to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws earlier in his term.
The Biden administration on Wednesday moved to temporarily shield 472,000 Venezuelans from deportation and allow them to apply for work permits, under pressure from city leaders who say one of their biggest financial burdens is the migrants’ lack of ability to work as they wait for their court cases to proceed.
The announcement seemed to quell Adams’ criticism for now. The mayor said he “personally spoke” to the White House to thank the administration for the decision.
“I am hopeful that we can continue to partner with President Biden to extend Temporary Protected Status to the tens of thousands of other migrants in our care from other countries.” Adams said.
On Thursday, the administration announced that it was expanding the number of Afghans eligible for temporary protected status, shielding them from deportation and allowing them to seek work permits. That change will cover an additional 14,600 Afghan migrants.
Biden has defended his actions, saying his administration is doing all it can to assist states and cities feeding and housing migrants but that congressional action is needed to fix the system.
“I’ve also directed my team to make historic increase in the number of refugees admitted from Latin America. People fleeing violence and persecution, who simply want their kids to have a better life,” he added. “Next week by team will consult with Congress on this plan.”
Earlier: US Expands Deportation Shield to 14,600 More Afghan Migrants
The president requested $4 billion from Congress for border security and migration mitigation in an emergency spending measure. That package faces an uphill road to passage, with the Republican-led House girding for a clash with Democrats on their own border demands as part of a fight over how to avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1.
Biden won 65% of Latino voters in his 2020 race against Donald Trump, according to exit polls. But he is under-performing in a hypothetical rematch, winning just 47% of Latinos, according to a New York Times polling analysis.
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