28 Jan 2024

Biden vows border 'shut down' if Congress passes deal

8:54 am on 28 January 2024

By Nadine Yousif, BBC News

BLUE BELL, PENNSYLVANIA - JANUARY 5: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at Montgomery County Community College January 5, 2024 in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. In his first campaign event of the 2024 election season, Biden stated that democracy and fundamental freedoms are under threat if former U.S. President Donald Trump returns to the White House.   Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Drew Angerer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

US President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at Montgomery County Community College 5 January 2024 in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. Photo: DREW ANGERER / AFP

US President Joe Biden has said he backs a bipartisan Senate border deal that gives him powers to shut down the southern border "when it becomes overwhelmed".

"If given that authority, I would use it the day I sign the bill into law," he said in a statement on Friday.

Biden urged lawmakers to pass the deal, calling it the "toughest and fairest" set of reforms seen yet.

The border deal faces objections from right and left.

Former President Donald Trump has also tried to tank the deal, urging Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson to only accept it if it is "perfect on the border".

Pressure has been mounting on Biden to act on the US-Mexico border as he vies for a second-term in the White House. He is likely to face off against Trump - who has taken a hardline stance on immigration - again in the upcoming presidential election.

Immigration is a central issue ahead of the election, with voters in Iowa and New Hampshire delivering primary victories to Trump in part due to their concerns over the border.

In December, migrant encounters at the US-Mexico border averaged more than 9500 per day, according to US government data.

Adding to the pressure, some Republicans have set a deal on border security as a condition for further Ukraine aid. A border deal is also integral to the approval of further aid for Israel and Taiwan, as Republicans in the House said they will not back more funding for either without it.

Biden's latest comments come as Senate negotiators try to win the approval of some House colleagues who have vowed to strike down the current border deal.

Top Senate Republicans, like Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, have urged them to pass it.

McConnell called it "a unique opportunity to accomplish something in a divided government that wouldn't be there under a unified government".

But Johnson has shown no signs that he and his colleagues will approve the deal. Earlier on Friday, Johnson told reporters that the deal is "dead on arrival" in its current form.

- This story was first published by the BBC.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs