President Biden, in an interview this week, claimed that his administration has “now gotten control” of the high number of migrants surging at the southern border — while again blaming the Trump administration for the crisis that overwhelmed officials in recent months.
“It is getting urgent action now,” Biden said in an interview with NBC News. “For example, a month ago, we had thousands of young kids, in custody in places they shouldn’t be and controlled by the Border Patrol. We have now cut that down dramatically.”
While the number of unaccompanied child migrants in Border Patrol custody has decreased rapidly in recent weeks from the thousands to the hundreds, there are still more than 22,000 in the custody of Health and Human Services (HHS) overall, with little sign of any of those being returned to their countries. And initial numbers on migrant encounters at the border for April appear to be around the same as the sky-high numbers in March — even as they appear to be leveling off.
“Well, look. It’s way down now,” Biden said when pressed on the number of children in custody. “We’ve now gotten control.”
Critics have hammered Biden for his handling of immigration in the early days of his administration — pointing to moves that narrowed interior enforcement and slashed Trump-era border controls, which they say increased the pull factors that drew migrants north.
Biden has ended construction of the wall at the southern border, ended the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and limited Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforcement priorities, while paying for migrant travel costs and releasing some family units into the interior of the U.S.
But his administration has blamed both “root causes” in Central America, as well as the Trump administration for not preparing for what Biden has called a seasonal surge in numbers.
“[The Trump administration] didn’t plan for, which comes every year, this flow, whether it’s 22,000 or 10,000,” he said. “They didn’t have the beds that were available. They didn’t plan for the overflow. They didn’t plan for the Department of Health and Human Services to have places to take the kids from the Border Patrol and put them in beds where there’s security and there were people that could take care of them.”
Biden also said that there is a strong effort to reunite children who may have been separated under the previous administration: “We’re trying like hell to figure out what happened — it’s almost like being a sleuth.”
Meanwhile, despite the administration’s policies of not expelling unaccompanied children and paying for migrant kids to be transported to their sponsors and parents across the country, Biden says the message to migrant parents is still not to send their children — and says that soon they will be able to apply for asylum from their home countries.
“Do not send your kids, period,” he said. “They’re in jeopardy making that thousand-mile trek. And so what we’re doing now is we’re going back to those countries in question where most of it’s coming from and saying, ‘Look, you can apply from your country. You don’t have to make this trek.’”