President Biden on Thursday said he would “be flattered” if migrants were surging to the US-Mexico border because of him — but disputed that notion, insisting that migration waves generally happen in the spring and the mounting crisis his administration is facing is not unique.
Biden, taking his second question at his first formal White House press conference, was asked about people illegally entering the US because of the perception he will welcome them, which he did not address and instead insisted that the same situation occurs “every single, solitary year.”
“Well look, I guess I should be flattered if people are coming because I’m a nice guy — that’s the reason why it’s happening — that I’m a decent man, or however it’s phrased, that that’s why they are coming, because they know Biden’s a good guy.”
He added: “But the truth of the matter is, nothing has changed. As many people came, 28 percent increase in children at the border in my administration. Thirty-one percent in the last year of 2019, before the pandemic in the Trump administration. This happens every single, solitary year.”
Biden repeated that it “happens every year,” without answering the original question on his messaging attracting waves of illegal immigration.
“Does anybody suggest that there was a 31 percent increase under Trump because he was a nice guy? And he was doing good things at the border? That’s not the reason they’re coming. The reason they’re coming is that it’s the time they can travel with the least likelihood of dying on the way because the heat in the desert, number one, number two, they’re coming because of the circumstances in their country.”
Biden said of the migrant surge, “I’d like to think it’s because I’m a nice guy but it’s not. It’s because of what’s happens every year.”
In response to a question from Kristen Welker of NBC News, asking when reporters will be allowed to visit overcrowded Border Patrol facilities housing children who illegally crossed the US-Mexico border, the president said “I don’t know.”
“I don’t know, to be clear,” Biden said
Reporters on Wednesday were allowed limited access to a facility at Carrizo Springs, Texas, run by the Department of Health and Human Services, but the Biden administration hasn’t allowed reporters into more cramped Border Patrol camps.
Welker asked, “Will you commit to allowing journalists to have access to the facilities that are overcrowded moving forward?”
Biden said, “I will commit —when my plan very shortly is underway — to let you have access to not just me, but other facilities as well.”
He said, “I commit to transparency as soon as I am in a position to be able to implement what we’re doing right now.”
Biden acknowledged he had no specific timeframe for expanding press access.
He added that “one of the reasons I haven’t gone down… is I don’t want to become the issue” amid the crisis.
Biden’s critics accuse him of triggering a migrant surge by relaxing former President Donald Trump’s border policies and by proposing legislation to legalize most of the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the US. He denied the charge at the press conference.
Last month, Biden terminated Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy that required Central American asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while US courts reviewed their claims.
Biden halted construction of his predecessor’s Mexico border wall and issued an order affirming the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives work permits and protection from deportation to people brought illegally to the US as minors.
The House of Representatives last week passed bills that would create a path to citizenship for up to half of the estimated illegal immigrants in the US, including farmworkers and children who arrived as minors. Many Republicans said the bills create new “pull” factors for migration.