President Biden on Tuesday said he has no plans to visit the US-Mexico border to see firsthand the scale of a mounting migrant crisis.
“Not at the moment,” Biden told reporters on the White House lawn as he departed for an afternoon trip to Pennsylvania to promote his recently passed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday visited the Mexican border with a delegation of fellow Republicans and insisted that Biden visit for himself.
“I know the president’s going to travel this week. This is where he should bring Air Force One,” McCarthy said in El Paso, Texas.
Biden’s Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday said federal authorities are nearing a 20-year high in apprehensions along the border.
“We are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years,” Mayorkas said.
The cabinet member said most single people “are swiftly expelled to Mexico,” as are families if Mexico has space to house them. Unaccompanied children, however, are placed in crowded detention centers until they can be placed with family or sponsors.
In February, about 30 percent of the people crossing the border were under 18. There were 29,792 unaccompanied children detained without their parents — about five times more than in January — of whom 2,942 were under age 12, according to US Customs and Border Protection.
The overall number of people apprehended along the Mexican border increased to more than 100,000 in February, a 28 percent increase from January.
Republicans say Biden’s policies and legislation that he supports are creating powerful “pull” factors for migration.
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.
Biden also proposed legislation to create a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the US. House Democrats plan votes Thursday on bills to offer legal status to farmworkers who currently lack government permission to work and to allow a path to citizenship to people brought illegally to the US as minors.