Kemp backs Texas in border showdown with Biden over immigration

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at a news conference Sunday about border policies in Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas. Kemp was among more than a dozen Republican governors who traveled to the border town to support Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in his dispute with the Biden administration over immigration. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at a news conference Sunday about border policies in Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas. Kemp was among more than a dozen Republican governors who traveled to the border town to support Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in his dispute with the Biden administration over immigration. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Gov. Brian Kemp traveled Sunday to the U.S. border with Mexico to back Texas amid a pitched confrontation with President Joe Biden over immigration and to intensify calls for tighter measures to deter uncontrolled migration.

Kemp was among more than a dozen Republican governors who traveled to Eagle Pass, the border town of roughly 30,000 that has become a flashpoint in a growing power struggle between Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Biden administration.

It was Kemp’s second recent visit to the U.S. border, and it underscored the political collision course between the federal government and GOP governors over concerns that lax enforcement efforts are allowing violent criminals and lethal drugs to illegally enter the U.S.

“Every state is a border state,” said Kemp, who stood beside Abbott at a municipal park near the Rio Grande that has become the center of the unprecedented legal standoff. Behind him, a phalanx of Texas National Guard soldiers and several armored vehicles fanned out.

“This is ruining lives in our states. It’s ruining our communities, and it’s taken a toll on our families. And it’s time that something was done about this,” Kemp said, adding: “Every state in the country is depending on Joe Biden acting, and if he does not, then we will continue to do so.”

The state recently began denying access to U.S. Border Patrol agents at Shelby Park, situated on a key stretch of the border where Texas officials unfurled miles of concertina wire to deter illegal immigration. Abbott said such measures were needed to “hold the line” against Biden’s policies.

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Biden administration last month in a 5-4 decision to allow federal agents to cut or remove parts of the barrier. Abbott ordered officials to continue to roll out the wire, saying Texas had a right to prevent what he called an “invasion” of migrants.

Shipping containers and concertina wire line the banks of the Rio Grande in Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, across the border from Piedras Negras, Mexico. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

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The extraordinary showdown helped sharpen the focus on immigration in an election year. The federal government reported 302,000 encounters with unauthorized migrants in December, setting a record for a month.

Worried the issue could be a political liability, Biden has recently urged Congress to grant him powers to overhaul asylum restrictions and impose tighter controls on the U.S. border. And Democrats in Georgia and across the nation are increasingly intensifying their calls for a bipartisan immigration deal.

But a compromise is unlikely. A measure to make it harder for migrants to apply for asylum once they’ve entered the country illegally faces long odds, and former President Donald Trump has vowed to “fight it all the way” to deprive Biden of a policy win.

Democrats in Georgia and beyond derided the GOP gubernatorial border push. State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, who heads the Texas House Democratic Caucus, posted on social media that it was nothing more than a “photo op.”

A National Guard soldier patrols Sunday in Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

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“We all know what you’re up to. You don’t want to fix the problem. You just want to campaign,” he said. “So enjoy your campaign this weekend. We’ll let the rest of America work on this issue.”

Pressed on that issue, Republicans point to polls that show a growing number of Americans see immigration as their top priority, particularly conservatives.

“The average American is angry,” Abbott said when asked whether it was a publicity stunt. “We don’t have time to wait until November. We have lives on the line every day.”

Kemp then took the microphone.

“This is not a campaign tactic,” said Kemp, who has visited the U.S. border five times. “This is something that this group and other Republican governors have been concerned with for many, many months and years.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, seated center, is joined by fellow Republican governors during a press conference Sunday along the Rio Grande to discuss Operation Lone Star and border concerns. Abbott was joined by Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Idaho Gov. Brad Little, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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Credit: Eric Gay/AP

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