President Biden said he would “be flattered” if the massive surge of migrants arriving at the southern border because of his “nice guy” persona, while repeating placing the blame on former President Trump for the border crisis, saying his predecessor dismantled the immigration system — but then claim the surges “happens every year.”
“Well look, I guess I should be flattered people are coming because I’m the nice guy,” Biden said at his first formal press conference after 64 days since taking office Thursday, “That’s the reason why it’s happening. That I’m a decent man, or however it’s phrased, that’s why they are coming, because they know Biden’s a good guy.”
He claimed the surge is nothing new, saying it occurs “every single solitary year.”
“Truth of the matter is, nothing has changed. As many people came, a 28% increase in children to the border in my administration, 31% in the last year, in 2019, before the pandemic in the Trump administration. It happens every single solitary year,” Biden said. “There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. It happens every year.”
Biden on his first day after being sworn into office took unprecedented efforts in rolling back many of Trump-era border policies. However, he maintained parts of a Trump’s policy implemented last year amid the coronavirus. The policy dubbed Title 42 authority allowed Border Patrol agents to immediately turn around any migrant adults caught attempting to cross the U.S. border. Biden opted not to impose the policy towards unaccompanied minors, causing numbers to increase over 63% last month and has captured broad attention.
The president during the news conference expressed no regret for signing those executive orders.
“First of all, all of the policies that were underway did not help at all, did not slow up the amount of immigration, as many people coming,” Biden said in response to another question about the border crisis that predominately dominated his hour-long event. “Rolling back the policies of separating children from their mothers? I make no apology for that. Rolling back the policies of remain in Mexico sitting on the edge of the Rio Grande, the muddy circumstances, not enough to eat. I make no apologies for that. I make no apologies for ending programs that did not exist before Trump became president that have an incredibly negative impact on the law, international law, as well as on human dignity. And so I make no apologies for that.”
“We’re building back up the capacity that should have been maintained and built upon that Trump dismantled,” Biden said. “It’s going to take time.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that the total number of border crossings this year is on pace to hit a two-decade high.
Asked later if unaccompanied minors who cross the border illegally should be allowed to stay, Biden said “it depends” while signaling his administration are attempting to seek to send some migrant children back home.
The president stated his administration is attempting to build a new immigration model that will deliver asylum decisions in the U.S. much more quickly and vet more people for their eligibility in their home countries—but argued both initiatives will take time.
In a separate question, Biden said he hasn’t visited the southern border yet because he doesn’t want to “become the issue.”
“I don’t want to be, you know, bringing all the Secret Service and everybody with me to get in the way,” Biden said.
When pressed in a follow up as to why his administration won’t allow reporters to cover the overcapacity detention center, causing a media blackout despite promising transparency, Biden said he will commit once he is “in a position to be able to implement what we’re doing right now,” but refused to give a specific timeframe as to when it would occur.
On Thursday, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) was caring for 11,900 minors, over 96% of its capacity—with another 5,156 minors in Border Patrol custody currently awaiting to be transferred to shelters. ORR has raced to open at least seven other temporary shelters so far, including new sites at the convention center in San Diego and on military bases in San Antonio and Fort Bliss, Texas. In total, the administration is planning to open up space for at least 15,000 across the emergency shelters, an HHS official told Congress on Thursday.
CBS News reported Wednesday that more than 16,500 unaccompanied migrant children were in federal custody, with over 11.500 being housed in shelters and emergency housing sites, while another 5,000 were stranded in overcrowded Border Patrol facilities.