President Biden said that all migrant families apprehended at the southern border should be sent away but are not because Mexico refuses to take them all.
“Some families are not going back because Mexico is refusing to take them back. Some, not all,” the president said in his first news conference on Thursday.
“We’re in negotiations with Mexico. That’s going to change. They should all be going back,” he continued.
Still, Biden reiterated a message that no unaccompanied migrants under the age of 18 will be turned away at the border.
The Biden administration, facing a surge at the border that could reach 20-year highs, has repeated a message that the border is “not open” in seemingly futile efforts to deter border crossings.
The message that all families should be sent away is a forceful message coming from the new president, who has promised more humane immigration policies than the Trump administration.
In February, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) allowed nearly 59% of migrant families to stay in the U.S. pending a final decision on whether they will be removed under a separate provision called Title 8.
In February, there were 19,246 total encounters with migrant families on the southern border. Of those encounters, 7,915 were expelled from the country under the Trump-era health order, Title 42, and 11,331 were allowed to stay.
In January, CBP expelled 4,546 family units under Title 42 out of 7,294 encounters, just over 62%.
Biden was asked whether his message that he wouldn’t turn children away had drawn families to send their children on the dangerous journey from Central America to the southern border of the U.S.
“The idea that I’m going to say … unaccompanied migrant children, we’re just going to let them starve to death, no previous administration did that either except Trump. I’m not going to do it,” Biden said. He said he would instead focus on the “fundamental reasons” Latin Americans send their children to the border — earthquakes, floods and gang violence.
Biden was also asked whether he moved “too quickly” to roll back the Trump administration’s immigration policy, such as the “Remain in Mexico” program. He said such Trump policies “were not helping at all, did not slow immigration.”
“I make no apologies for that, for ending programs that did not exist before Trump became president that have incredibly negative impact on the law, on international law, as well as on human dignity,” Biden said.