During Biden’s first press conference, the president rebuked criticism over his administration’s response to a surge in arrivals on the country’s southern border with Mexico.
Biden said he “make[s] no apology” for ending the hardline immigration policies set in place by former President Donald Trump, such as “separating children from their mothers.”
In response to charges that he compromised public health by allegedly releasing migrants with COVID-19 into the general population, the president said only, “There are no easy answers.”
Biden’s press conference comes amid increased tension between his administration and Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas GOP, who have repeatedly lashed out at the president over migration.
Addressing reporters, the president called on Republicans to ditch "the politics of division."
Biden said his migration policies were already making the situation “better,” adding that his administration intends to move more than 1,000 people out of Border Patrol custody into “safe, secure beds in facilities.”
He also said that Texas' Fort Bliss would open up 5,000 beds for individuals currently held in migrant detention centers.
Responding to a question by a reporter, he said safe family reunifications bringing together unaccompanied children and their relatives require “seeking harder data, from DNA to birth certificates, which takes longer.”
The president also insisted that only unaccompanied children are being allowed into the country, and “tens of thousands” of single adults “are being sent back” to their home countries.
"The idea that I'm going to say, which I would never do, that an unaccompanied child who ends up at a border, we're just going to let him starve to death and stay on the other side — no previous administration did that either, except Trump," Biden said.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, quickly took to Twitter to criticize the Biden administration over immigration. Cruz accused Biden of lacking “transparency,” saying the president hadn’t allowed press access to the Donna migrant detention facility in South Texas.
On Wednesday, U.S. Rep Brian Babin, another Republican from Texas, claimed Biden refused to acknowledge a “border crisis that he created.”
This week, Gov. Abbott told CBS-7 in the Odessa-Midland that Texas authorities would “apprehend anybody that’s coming across the border illegally.”
Earlier this month, Abbott launched Operation Lone Star, a state initiative to crack down on border crossings, which involves the Texas Department of Public Safety, the state’s National Guard and other state agencies.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, writing on Twitter, said “federal authorities are only making [the border crisis] worse.”
Meanwhile, in downtown Dallas, some 1,750 teenage migrant boys are housed at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center. The facility will eventually hold up to 3,000 unaccompanied teens.
On Wednesday, the League of United Latin American Citizens called on the government to provide the teens held in the de facto detention center with temporary legal status, WFAA reported.
“We need to look at them as human beings,” Domingo Garcia, the national president of LULAC, said at a press conference. “These are children.”
Garcia described the immigration system as “broken,” and said the teens held in the Dallas convention center want to apply for asylum.
On Friday, Cruz and fellow GOP Sen. John Cornyn will accompany 17 Republican senators to visit the border in McAllen, The Dallas Morning News reports.
The number of arrivals remains far fewer than the high point under Trump in 2019. Although Trump effectively sealed the border and those numbers slumped dramatically, arrivals began to rise again last April.
Still, more people are reaching the southern frontier, with border apprehensions spiking sharply in February.
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