The top Democrat in Congress on Thursday said that President Joe Biden’s administration needs to do better on immigration, as the country deals with a surge in migrants arriving at the southern border.
Biden “inherited a huge mess on immigration, and it’s not going to be cleaned up in a month,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during an appearance on ABC’s “The View,” blaming former President Donald Trump’s administration for the current situation.
Officials in the current administration “are rolling up their sleeves and working on this,” Schumer continued. “I think it will get better in the next few months. If it doesn’t, I will go to them and say ‘you got to do better.’ And if they don’t, I will be public. But I got to give them a little bit of a chance because they inherited a big, big mess created by Donald Trump, whose views on immigrants just turned me off.”
Illegal border crossings hit 100,411 along the southern border in February, according to recently released figures, including nearly 9,500 unaccompanied minors.
Under Trump, agents encountered what was a near-record low of 17,106 illegal immigrants in April 2020. Every month since then, the number of encounters has gone up.
Biden rescinding a number of immigration orders imposed by Trump, such as one requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims were being adjudicated, has been blamed by critics for the surge this year.
An administration official acknowledged that policies may have driven the surge while urging people not to listen to “disinformation” spread by human smugglers.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at the White House on Thursday that the border “is not open.”
“The vast majority of individuals apprehended or encountered at the border continue to be denied entry and are returned” to their home countries, she added.
The Biden administration kept Title 42, which was imposed under the previous administration and lets officials deny entry to non-citizens because of the danger they may carry a serious disease into the United States. But they’re not applying the rule to unaccompanied minors, in a bid to promote a “more humane” system, officials say.
“We are weeks, maybe even days, away from a crisis on the southern border. Inaction is simply not an option,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said last week.
Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), appearing on CNN’s “New Day” on Thursday, said the surge reveals the need for legal reform.
“The right way to handle immigration has been well known to be the right way to handle immigration for 20 years. It’s comprehensive immigration reform, with the path to legal status for those who are here without proper documentation and otherwise follow the law, and substantive efforts to improve border security,” Ossoff said. “There is a bipartisan consensus among the people that that’s what we need.”