President Joe Biden said on Sunday that he will visit the U.S. southern border “at some point” as his administration continues to struggle with addressing the influx of illegal immigration.
Biden made the comments to reporters after stepping off the Marine One at the White House.
The United States is currently facing a significant surge in illegal border crossings, in particular from unaccompanied minors. While families and single adults are being expelled at the border, the administration is still accepting unaccompanied minors who arrive illegally, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.
The president, who vowed to reverse his predecessor’s immigration policies during his campaign, has recently pleaded to Central American migrants to stay put in their “town or city or community” instead of making the dangerous trip to illegally cross into the United States.
Upon taking office, Biden reversed several Trump-era immigration policies, including his predecessor’s key Migrant Protection Protocol, which sought to end the problematic “catch and release” policy and is credited for significantly stemming the flow of illegal immigrants in 2019. In a return to the Obama-era policies that facilitate “catch-and-release,” asylum seekers are released into the interior of the country as they await a court hearing, often never to be seen again.
The sharp increase in unaccompanied minors arriving at the border, complicated by the ongoing pandemic, has overwhelmed border facilities and resources and has seen the administration open more overflow shelters to handle the influx.
Mayorkas said on March 1 that instead of “expelling young children” to Mexico while processing their asylum claims, as was done under the Trump administration, DHS is working to release minors to relatives or sponsors in the United States if the minors are from Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador. The policy was to apply only to those who were in the United States before Jan. 1 this year but has now triggered another wave of illegal immigrants who are hopeful that the Biden administration will extend the new policy to them.
A reporter on Sunday asked Biden to explain why his plea to migrants to stay home is not resonating and to address what else his administration could do to address the issue.
“A lot more. We’re in the process of doing it now, including making sure that we reestablish what existed before, which was they can stay in place and make their case from their home country,” Biden said in response to the question.
Mayorkas appeared on multiple programs across major news networks on Sunday to address questions about the burgeoning crisis. During the interviews, he sought to shift the blame of the crisis to the Trump administration.
In one interview with NBC, Mayorkas claimed that the previous administration “dismantled the orderly, humane, and efficient way of allowing children to make their claims under United States law in their own country.”
Former President Donald Trump appeared to respond to Mayorkas’s comments in a statement sent via email later on Sunday, where he reiterated his criticism that the Biden administration had transformed “national triumph into a national disaster” in a span of a few weeks of taking office.
“We proudly handed the Biden Administration the most secure border in history. All they had to do was keep this smooth-running system on autopilot. Instead, in the span of a just few weeks, the Biden Administration has turned a national triumph into a national disaster. They are in way over their heads and taking on water fast,” Trump said in his statement.
He also raised concerns over the current administration’s decision to revive the “catch-and-release” policy by overturning most of the former president’s immigration policies.
“Even someone of Mayorkas’ limited abilities should understand that if you provide Catch-and-Release to the world’s illegal aliens then the whole world will come,” Trump wrote.
Biden has refused to call the influx of migrants at the border a “crisis.” But the White House has acknowledged the spike as being “a big problem” and an “enormous challenge” for the administration.
The number of encounters at the southwest border has been rising steadily over the last few months. Between October 2020 and January 2021, the number of enforcement encounters was 296,259—a 79.6 percent increase from 164,932 for the same period a year earlier, according to CBP data.
The number of family units (19,246) and unaccompanied minors (9,457) crossing illegally rose significantly in February, compared to 7,294 family units and 5,585 unaccompanied minors in January, and 4,404 family units and 4,993 unaccompanied minors in December 2020.