Watch CBS News

In State of the Union, Biden urges GOP to back immigration compromise: "Send me the border bill now"

Biden criticizes GOP for rejecting border deal
Biden criticizes Republicans for rejecting border deal 05:42

Eagle Pass, Texas — President Biden used his State of the Union remarks on Thursday to forcefully call on Republican lawmakers in Congress to pass a bipartisan immigration compromise that stalled last month, accusing them of derailing the proposal for political reasons.

"I'm told my predecessor called members of Congress in the Senate to demand they block the bill," Mr. Biden said, referring to former President Donald Trump, his likely Republican rival in the 2024 presidential election. 

Congressional Republicans, the president said, "owe it to the American people" to pass the proposal.

"Send me the border bill now!" Mr. Biden added.

The proposal brokered by Mr. Biden's administration and a small bipartisan of senators would have tightened asylum rules and created a broad presidential authority to empower U.S. border officials to summarily deport migrants during spikes in illegal immigration. It would also expand legal immigration  levels, and provide additional money to fund border operations and hire additional personnel, including immigration judges, asylum officers and Border Patrol agents.

While Republicans in Congress made sweeping limits to asylum a condition to supporting border funding and further military aid to Ukraine, many of them rejected the immigration deal almost immediately after it was released, arguing it was not strict enough. Trump came out strongly against the legislation, telling Republicans to blame him for opposing it.

On Thursday, Mr. Biden said the agreement would "save lives" and "bring order to the border."

Trump, Mr. Biden added, should implore lawmakers to back the compromise,"instead of playing politics."

His comments drew heckles from Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. The interruption prompted Mr. Biden to veer off script and express his condolences to the parents of Laken Riley, a Georgia nursing student who was killed last month. The suspect in the case is a Venezuelan migrant who crossed the U.S. southern border illegally in September 2022. Republican lawmakers have highlighted the murder extensively.

Mr. Biden held up a button with Riley's name that Greene handed him when he walked into the House chamber. He referred to Riley as an "innocent young woman who was killed by an illegal," and said "my heart goes out to" her family.

President Biden holds a button with Laken Riley's name on it while delivering the State of the Union address on March 7, 2024.
President Biden holds a button with Laken Riley's name on it while delivering the State of the Union address on March 7, 2024. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Under Mr. Biden, the U.S. has faced record levels of migration and an accompanying humanitarian and operational crisis of unprecedented proportions along the U.S.-Mexico border over the past three years. In fiscal year 2023, Customs and Border Protection processed 2.4 million migrants at the southern border, the highest tally recorded by the agency.

But the situation at the southern border has also become a formidable political challenge for Mr. Biden as he seeks reelection.

Immigration is one of his worst-polling issues, with many Americans, according to polls, faulting his administration for the record levels of illegal border crossings. And while most of the criticism the president has faced on immigration has come from Republicans, Democratic leaders in cities and states struggling to house migrants have accused his administration of not doing enough to tackle the issue.

Mr. Biden did not announce any new immigration actions on Thursday. In recent weeks, he has been considering invoking a presidential power used multiple times by Trump to drastically limit asylum — a move that would almost certainly trigger legal challenges.

While he sought to embrace tougher border policies on Thursday, the president drew distinctions on immigration with Trump. The former president has promised to conduct the largest deportation operation in U.S. history, end birthright citizenship for the children of unauthorized immigrants and implement more hardline border policies if he wins in November.

"I will not demonize immigrants, 'saying they are poisoning the blood of our country,'" Mr. Biden said, referring to comments made by Trump. "I will not separate families. I will not ban people from America because of their faith." 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.