President Joe Biden said in an interview aired on Tuesday that Central American migrants should remain in their “town or city or community” instead of trekking to the United States and crossing the border illegally.
“I can say quite clearly: Don’t come over,” Biden told ABC News.
The president made the comments amid a surge of illegal immigrants crossing the border, particularly unaccompanied minors. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Tuesday that the United States is on pace to encounter more illegal crossers this year than any year in the past two decades.
Upon taking office, Biden reversed more than a dozen Trump-administration immigration policies that have been credited with stemming the tide of illegal immigration. Former President Donald Trump criticized Biden in an interview that aired on Fox News on Tuesday.
“My policies were working better than they’ve ever seen on the southern border,” Trump said, while lamenting Biden’s choice to stop construction of the wall on the southern border. “They should finish it but they’re destroying our country. People are coming in by the hundreds of thousands.”
Biden said that there has been a surge of illegal immigrants over the past two years but agreed that the current wave “could be” worse.
Biden said on Tuesday that he does not plan to visit the southern border for now. Asked before boarding Marine One in Washington whether he has plans to visit the border, Biden told reporters: “Not at the moment.”
Officials in border states have said some illegal immigrants are testing positive for COVID-19 but aren’t being forced to stay in quarantine, stoking concerns about them spreading the disease, which is caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
House Republicans flew to Texas on Monday and toured a border facility, in addition to speaking with border agents. They urged Biden to visit the border himself to see what was happening.
Biden sent a contingent of officials earlier this month to view the situation on the ground. He hasn’t offered a perspective on what they saw and it isn’t clear whether he’s been briefed by them yet.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on Monday that the administration feels it has a handle on the border situation.
“We recognize this as a problem. We’re focused on addressing it. That’s just five steps we’re taking, and we’re continuing to evaluate what additional steps can be taken to address the situation at the border,” she said, riddling off recent administration actions, including adding capacity for health officials to house unaccompanied minors, or children who enter the country illegally without an adult.
Bowen Xiao contributed to this report.