CNN Presidential Debate: Illegal immigration looms as top issue amid outrage over 12-year-old girl’s murder

The ongoing crisis at the southern border is likely to be a top issue at this week's debate after a string of horrific crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

Illegal immigration and how to solve the ongoing crisis at the southern border are likely to be top issues at this Thursday’s presidential debate between President Biden and former President Donald Trump — after a string of horrific crimes by illegal immigrants, including the brutal murder of a 12-year-old girl in Texas.

Two Venezuelan illegal immigrants are charged with capital murder in the death of 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray in Houston, Texas. One of the two men accused had his bail set at $10 million on Monday. Authorities said she was “lured” under a bridge in Houston before she was tied up and killed. 

The arrests came the same week as the arrest of an Ecuadorian national in the U.S. illegally for a broad daylight sex attack in which police said a machete-wielding man raped a 13-year-old girl at a park. Last week, police also announced that an illegal migrant from El Salvador had been arrested for the murder of Rachel Morin — a Maryland mother of five. The horrific crimes are part of a broader wave of crimes across the U.S. committed by those in the country illegally.


The arrests come days before this week’s CNN presidential debate between Trump and Biden, where immigration was already expected to be a top topic, given the ongoing crisis at the southern border.

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The U.S. has seen record numbers of migrant crossings at the border, with more than 2.4 million in FY 23 alone on top of three years of the highest crossings ever seen. Republicans and Trump have hammered Biden over the crisis, arguing that it is his policies — and the rolling back of Trump-era policies — that have fueled the crisis.

“These are Biden migrants,” Trump told Fox News Digital last week. “They are flooding our country. They are flooding our cities and states.”

Trump has promised the largest domestic deportation operation in U.S. history if elected, and to terminate “every Open Border policy of the Biden administration.” He has also promised to deploy special forces to the border and reinstate his 2017 travel ban.


Biden, meanwhile, has argued that Congress needs to step up to pass immigration reform to fix what he calls a “broken” immigration system. His administration introduced a bill on day one, but Republicans balked at the inclusion of a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S.

He also backed a bipartisan Senate bill introduced earlier this year, but it has failed to pick up steam in the upper chamber. Biden has blamed Trump for stifling the bill, which included additional funding for border operations and a mechanism to shut down crossings after a certain level.

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“Republicans in Congress, not all, walked away from it. Why? Because Donald Trump told them to,” he said in February.

Biden has made two major immigration moves in recent weeks as congressional action stalls. One was a move to further limit asylum claims by migrants once average border encounters exceed 2,500 a day. Last week he also announced a deportation shield for some illegal immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens. He has repeatedly said, however, that it is not enough and he needs Congress to act in order to fix the system. 

Biden will likely go into the debate armed with data showing that numbers at the border are trending down. There were 170,723 total encounters at the southern border in May, the lowest month this fiscal year and the lowest May since Biden took office.

Additionally, Fox News has reported that illegal crossings continue to plummet, with just under 1,900 apprehensions on Sunday, one of the lowest such days since early 2021.

However, Trump will likely highlight the crimes being committed by those who were released into the U.S., particularly those who were released during Biden’s presidency — including the murder of Jocelyn Nungaray.

Fox News’ Greg Norman and Bill Melugin contributed to this report.

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