US President Joe Biden discouraged would-be migrants from coming to the United States as his administration scrambles to respond to a surge of unaccompanied migrant children coming into the US.
“I can say quite clearly: Don’t come,” Biden told ABC in an interview aired on Tuesday.
The President continued: “We’re in the process of getting set up, don’t leave your town or city or community.”
There’s been a major spike in the number of migrant children in US custody. More than 4,000 migrant children are in Border Patrol custody, stretching federal resources for shelter space thin. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement on Tuesday that “we are on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.”
Many of those migrants have headed toward the US believe that Biden’s administration will be more welcoming than his predecessor’s more hardline posture. The President tried to downplay that perception during the interview, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos “they’re not” coming because they think his administration will allow them to stay in the country.
Biden told reporters earlier on Tuesday that he currently has no plans to visit the southern border.
“Not at the moment,” Biden told reporters on the south lawn of the White House when he was asked whether he had any plans to visit the border.
Presidential visits have the power to draw international attention to emergencies and emerging issues. But even as the federal government says it is preparing to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than the country has seen in the last two decades, Biden and White House officials say a visit is not planned and repeatedly refused to call what’s happening on the border a crisis.
During a gaggle aboard Air Force One on Tuesday following Biden’s comments, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked by CNN’s Kevin Liptak why the President has delayed raising refugee caps, following the news that hundreds of refugees approved to come into the US have been taken off flights and told to wait for Biden’s sign off. Psaki said Biden has delayed raising the current cap on refugees because “we want to do it in an effective manner.”
And when asked whether Biden was worried that letting more refugees in now would signal to people in Central America that the US is open to more immigration, Psaki reiterated the sentiment that the administration wants its actions to be effective.
“I wouldn’t make a direct connection. I would say it’s just something where we want to make sure that our system is prepared for to manage the process effectively and smoothly,” she said.
Psaki had said during Monday’s briefing at the White House that there were no plans for a presidential border trip, even as Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have begun a national tour to promote the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief law.