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SAUNDERS: Who won Texas border faceoff? Who do you think?

WASHINGTON — Thursday always was going to end this way. Former President Donald Trump would show up at the Texas border, and he would be on fire, while President Joe Biden would try and fail to play catch up, having lost the support of voters who think he’s botched immigration bigly.

After all, Trump made plans to visit Eagle Pass last week, so that he could remind the public of the border’s sleepier days when he was in office.

Then Biden announced he would go to Brownsville on the same day, so he could showcase his reversal on immigration policy.

On the optics alone, Trump won the day.

The former president was in the thick of it, near an erstwhile border hot spot, at home with the men and women who put their lives on the line to enforce federal immigration law. And talking about the border in a way that resonates with American voters.

The current president has avoided the border for most of his presidency. It was not until two years into his tenure that Biden first visited the border as president — he went to El Paso in January 2023. This was his second trip, and to a border backwater.

And what did Biden say? Basically, he was trying to convince America that the Southwest border has been a hot mess because Hill Republicans walked away from a bipartisan compromise that was supposed to address the chaos.

Yes, Republicans caved under social-media pressure from Trump, who wanted to keep the issue in play because he expects to run against Biden in November.

But what Republicans did once under duress, Democrats have been doing for decades because they don’t believe in enforcing federal immigration law.

Biden used his border event to urge Trump to “join” him in passing a measure that Trump doesn’t want. “We can do it together,” Biden said.

Together? No. Perhaps because Biden couldn’t — or chose not to — pass immigration reform unilaterally when Democrats also controlled the Senate and House.

There have been more than 6.3 million migrant encounters along the Southwest border since Biden took office.

They’re not all folks you’d invite into your living room.

U.S. Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens posted on X Tuesday that in the previous 72 hours, 11 people with violent criminal histories were arrested along the Southwest border. “Their criminal histories include: child molestation, aggravated assault, rape, murder, & manufacture/trafficking of firearms.”

Jon Feere of the pro-enforcement Center for Immigration Studies crunched the numbers and figured the Biden administration “has allowed over 200,000 criminal aliens to run free after being arrested by sheriffs across the country.” Feere added, “the administration’s real intention is to undermine ICE’s mission and gut immigration enforcement, rather than improve public safety.” No surprise.

As of February, Gallup reported that Americans see immigration as the most important problem facing the country.

Contact Review-Journal Washington columnist Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com. Follow @debrajsaunders on X.

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