Biden defends border response as immigration takes center stage at first press conference

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – During his first formal press conference since taking office, President Joe Biden defended his administration’s response to the recent surge of migrants, many unaccompanied minors, at the U.S. southern border.

“I’d like to think it’s because I’m a nice guy, but it’s not,” Biden said Thursday. “It’s because of what happens every year.”

The president told reporters an influx like this occurs at this time due to better traveling conditions and circumstances in the migrants’ home countries. He noted a similar surge occurred in 2019 during the Trump administration.

“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?,” Biden asked. “That’s not the reason they’re coming.”

On his first day in office, President Biden signed executive orders undoing Trump’s immigration policies.

“Rolling back the policies of separating children from their mothers, I make no apologies for that… for any programs that did not exist before Trump became president,” Biden said.

The president said hiring freezes and delayed construction of shelters under the Trump administration forced his team to play catch up. Biden said his administration is working to make more beds available for minors and verify if traffickers or family members are responsible for them.

“It’s going to take time,” he said.

But congressional Republicans argue the solution is simple. They say President Biden should reinstate the Trump-era policies, like Remain in Mexico and the border wall.

“He inherited the most secure border that we’ve had in my lifetime,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-LA. “One need not be clairvoyant to see what was going to happen. People flooded into our country.”

Kennedy will visit the border Friday with a GOP Senate delegation and calls on the president to take a more hard-line approach.

“He’s saying don’t come, don’t come, don’t come,” Kennedy said while nodding his head and gesturing with his hand to follow. “But I think the new administration believes in open borders.”

The president says he has yet to visit the border because he “doesn’t want to become the issue.” He did not say when a trip could happen.

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