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Elon Musk wades into US immigration debate at Texas-Mexico border

Published 09/28/2023, 09:09 PM
Updated 09/29/2023, 01:13 PM
© Reuters. Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer of SpaceX and Tesla and owner of X, visits the U.S. border with Mexico where many immigrants cross into the United States in Eagle Pass, Texas, U.S., September 28, 2023.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder
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By Brian Snyder

EAGLE PASS, Texas (Reuters) - Billionaire Elon Musk waded into the U.S. immigration debate on Thursday, paying a visit to the Texas border with Mexico to meet with local politicians and law enforcement and obtain what he called an "unfiltered" view of the situation.

Musk's visit came as thousands of migrants have ventured to northern Mexico in recent days on freight trains and buses, then crossed the U.S. border into Texas, Arizona and California in an upswing in arrivals of people seeking asylum in the United States.

The sharp increase, notably around San Diego, California, and the Texas border towns of El Paso and Eagle Pass, follows an earlier lull in unauthorized border crossings following a new asylum policy imposed by Democratic President Joe Biden's administration to discourage such activity.

Musk visited Eagle Pass, where throngs of migrants have for several days been wading across the Rio Grande near a railroad bridge in Eagle Pass, undeterred by coils of razor wire placed along the river banks by the Texas National Guard.

Dressed in a black T-shirt, black cowboy hat and aviator-style sunglasses, Musk urged a two-pronged approach to overhauling U.S. immigration laws in a video-selfie posted to the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, which he purchased last April.

He called for an "expedited legal approval" as part of a "greatly expanded legal immigration system" that welcomes "hard-working and honest" migrants, while also barring entry for those who are "breaking the law."

"We want to do both things - smooth out legal immigration and stop a flow of people that is of such magnitude that we’re leading to a collapse of social services," Musk said.

Musk, a native of South Africa, noted his own status as an "immigrant to the United States" and called himself "extremely pro-immigrant."

Chief executive of Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) and SpaceX, Musk has increasingly injected himself into American politics.

He hosted Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's launch of his Republican presidential campaign on Twitter in May, crashing the service. He said earlier this month that he had refused a Ukrainian request to use his Starlink satellite network to aid in its defense against Russia and met last week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who urged him to balance protecting free speech and fighting hate speech on X.

© Reuters. Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer of SpaceX and Tesla and owner of X, views the Rio Grande river during a visit to Eagle Pass, Texas, U.S., as migrants continue crossing into the U.S. to seek asylum, as seen from Piedras Negras, Mexico September 28, 2023. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

In the 4-minute video clip, he introduced U.S. Representative Tony Gonzales, a Republican from Texas whose district spans more than 800 miles of the border, who welcomed Musk and said people along the Texas border "really feel abandoned."

Musk has more than a small interest in the Texas economy. Tesla's Gigafactory Texas plant is located in Austin and Space X operates a major testing and launch facility on Texas Gulf Coast in Boca Chica near Brownsville.

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