BROWNSVILLE, Texas (NEWSnet/AP) — President Joe Biden and GOP challenger Donald Trump both surveyed the U.S.-Mexico border from the Rio Grande Thursday, and pitched their respective plans on how to fix the nation's immigration system.

Immigration has emerged as a central issue in the 2024 presidential campaign, which is widely expected to be a Biden-Trump rematch.

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.

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.

“Here’s what I would say to Mr. Trump,” Biden said. “Instead of playing politics with the issue, join me, or I’ll join you in telling the Congress to pass this bill. You know and I know it’s the toughest, most efficient, most effective border security bill this country’s ever seen."

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.

The president walked along the Rio Grande and received a briefing from Homeland Security officials, who spoke about what they needed to do their jobs effectively — in short, more money to hire more officers along the border and for use across the asylum process to help clear out massive backlogs.

“I want the American people to know what we’re trying to get done,” Biden said. “We can’t afford not to do this.”

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.

“This is like a war,” Trump said.

Gazing out over the river through the razor wire, Trump raised his fist and waved and shouted to people on the Mexico side, who waved back. Then, he declared that migrants arriving to the border were criminals and some were terrorists, a dialed-up version of the accusations he often used during the 2016 campaign.

“They’re being let into our country and it’s horrible," Trump said. "It’s horrible.”

Trump has laid out updated immigration that include reviving and expanding a travel ban, imposing “ideological screening” for migrants, terminating all work permits and cutting off funding for shelter and transportation for people who are in the country illegally.

The number of people who are illegally crossing the U.S. border has been rising for years, for reasons that include climate change, war and unrest in other nations, the economy, and cartels that see migration as a cash source.

Migrants ask for asylum whether they come illegally or through ports of entry; in some cases they are turned away because of current policies, but many families are allowed into the U.S., where they often wait years for a court date to determine whether they can stay.

Follow NEWSnet on Facebook and X platform to get our headlines in your social feeds.

Copyright 2024 NEWSnet and The Associated Press. All rights reserved.