President Joe Biden said he ‘guesses’ he should check out the southern border for himself in a town hall Thursday night, days after new data revealed that a record number of migrants were taken into US custody this year.
Biden touted his success in lowering the amount of children in Border Patrol custody during a CNN town hall in Baltimore hosted by Anderson Cooper.
The president said the number of detained kids went from 5,000 to 504 within the first year of his presidency.
But new data obtained by the Washington Post shows that the US detained more than 1.7 million migrants along the US-Mexico border between October 2020 and September 2021 – the highest number since 1986.
Asked by Cooper if he should go down to the border, Biden said: ‘I’ve been there before … I know it well … I guess I should go down.’
President Biden answered questions about everything from climate change to immigration during a Thursday night CNN town hall in Baltimore
Asked by host Anderson Cooper if he should go down to the border, Biden said: ‘I’ve been there before … I know it well … I guess I should go down.’
The US detained more than 1.7 million migrants along the US-Mexico border between October 2020 and September 2021 – the highest number since 1986
He cited recent hurricanes and world travel as reasons why he hasn’t had ‘a whole hell of a lot of time to get down.
‘I’ve been spending time going around looking at the $900 billion worth of damage done by hurricanes and floods and weather and traveling around the world.
‘My wife Jill has been down. She’s been on both sides of the river. She’s seen the circumstances there. She’s looked into those places. You notice you’re not seeing a lot of pictures of kids lying on top of one another with what looks like tarps on top of them. We’ve been able to deal with that.
‘We’ve been able to significantly increase funding through the HHS to provide shelter for these kids and people. But, there’s much more to be done. It is a thing that concerns me the most about being able to get control of it.’
The commander-in-chief admitted that he has kept in place Title 42 – a Trump-era edict that allows the government to unilaterally expel migrants due to COVID-19 concerns – because of high levels of the virus in Latin America.
‘It’s very, very high. And so, we maintained the policy. We are not sending back children. We send back adults and we send back large families.
‘But we don’t send back children in that circumstance. That’s why I have a proposal to provide for over a billion doses of Covid vaccine to the rest of the world, including a significant portion to Latin and Central America.’
Biden answered immigration questions from law student Megan Crawford, a Republican
Biden says he kept Title 42, which allows the government to expel migrants due to public health reasons, because of high levels of COVID in Latin America. Above, volunteers clean up the Rio Bravo river, on the border between Mexico and US, on October 17
He also said he kept Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy because the courts said he had to. Above, border agents discover sisters, aged 4 and 6, near the border in Arizona this month
The president, 78, also argued that he had to keep Donald Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy because ‘the court said I had to maintain it.’
Trump created the Migrant Protection Protocols, or ‘Remain in Mexico,’ policy in 2019. It forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for US court hearings on asylum cases.
Trump argued that many asylum claims were fraudulent and applicants allowed into the United States might end up staying illegally if they skipped court hearings, according to Reuters.
Biden, a Democrat, ended the policy soon after taking office in January, pledging a more humane approach, but Texas US District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled that he had to keep it in August.
During Thursday’s town hall, Biden answered a series of questions from University of Baltimore law student Megan Crawford, a Republican.
Illegal crossings began skyrocketing in the months after Biden was inaugurated – and while the administration initially tried to blame Trump’s policies for the increase, some migrants say they made the trek to the US with the belief the new administration would allow them to stay.
A Border Patrol officer swings what looks like a whip while trying to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande on September 19, 2020
‘They weren’t wrong,’ North Carolina Representative Dan Bishop tweeted of migrants’ assumptions.
Another pull, migrants said, was the labor shortages in the US showing them a need for workers.
In another dismissal of the growing crisis, Biden previously described the rise in spring 2021 as consistent with seasonal norms.
That, however, did not remain true as the highest-levels of illegal crossings came during the hottest months of the year, July and August.
More than 200,000 migrants were taken into CBP custody each month.
Last month, more than 25,000 Haitian migrants arrived in the border city of Del Rio, Texas, quickly overwhelming local officials there and creating chaotic scenes of border patrol using horse reins that looked like whips near the migrants.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reportedly asked senior officials if the border was ready for a worst-case scenario of 350,000 to 400,000 migrants crossing the border this month, two DHS officials told NBC.
Haitian migrants wait on Tuesday to board a boat that will take them to Colombia as they trek from South America to the US – in a sign the migration crisis will not cease any time soon
Illegal southern border crossings are at their highest level in decades under President Biden
Biden said Thursday he hasn’t had ‘a whole hell of a lot of time to get down’ to the border
On September 26, Mayorkas revealed that 12,000 Haitian migrants were released into the US as they await their immigration hearings and another 5,000 are still being processed.
This means at least 17,000 Haitian migrants have illegally entered the US and are seeking asylum.
Biden opened the town hall joking that he had been in the Senate for ‘370 years’ and that he was ‘relatively good at putting together deals,’ according to CNN.
He has yet to convince Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to vote for his behemoth $2 trillion infrastructure plan.
Biden called Sinema ‘smart as the devil’ and Manchin ‘a friend’ as he continued to court their votes.