Address Showed Biden Seeking Tricky Balance on Immigration

Confronting the fraught politics of immigration, President Biden wants to focus attention on the decision by Republicans in Congress, egged on by former President Donald J. Trump, to block a bipartisan deal that would provide an infusion of money for border security and allow the president to close off the border to asylum seekers.

On the defensive, Republicans have escalated their longstanding effort to tie migrants to heinous crimes.

Both strategies were on full display on Thursday night as Mr. Biden delivered his State of the Union address. He made his case that it is Republicans who are now responsible for the problems at the border, while Republicans portrayed his policies as responsible for the death of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student from Georgia who was killed in February, allegedly by a Venezuelan migrant.

The dynamic has Mr. Biden, who heading into the general election campaign has signaled a harder line on immigration, walking a careful path, as his clash with Republicans on Thursday night demonstrated. He at once promised to bring back “order” at the border while also vowing not to assail migrants in the manner of Mr. Trump and his allies.

“I will not demonize immigrants saying they are poison in the blood of our country,” Mr. Biden said in his address before a joint session of Congress, referring to statements by Mr. Trump that have echoes of white supremacy.

“Unlike my predecessor, I know who we are as Americans, and we’re the only nation in the world with the heart and soul that draws from old and new,” Mr. Biden said. “Home to Native Americans whose ancestors have been here for thousands of years, home to people from every place on Earth.”

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