President Joe Biden on Thursday said he’s in negotiations with Mexico and hopes to get it to accept back all migrant families arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Biden said it is his administration’s goal to only allow unaccompanied minors arriving at the border to remain in the U.S.
Thousands of families, most of them hailing from Central America and Mexico, have traveled to the U.S. border in recent weeks in hopes of being allowed to stay. And while the message from the administration is that families entering the U.S. are being immediately expelled under a public health order imposed early in the pandemic by former President Donald Trump, the majority of families entering the U.S. have been allowed to stay.
The reason families have been allowed to stay in the U.S., officials have said, is that Mexico isn’t always willing or able to receive them. At his first press conference, Biden said he expects that to change.
“We’re in negotiations with the president of Mexico. I think we’re going to see that change,” Biden said. “They should all be going back.”
Biden repeatedly defended his administration’s immigration agenda and handling of the current situation at the border amid growing criticism from Republicans and some Democrats over the rising number of migrants attempting to enter the U.S.
Countering a common charge by his GOP critics, Biden specified that his moves to end certain Trump-era policies was necessary and is not what’s influencing migrants to come now.
“I make no apologies for ending programs that did not exist before Trump became president that had an incredibly negative impact on the law, international law, as well as on human dignity,” Biden said.
Last week, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas warned that the U.S. is “on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.” But Biden noted Thursday that the majority of migrants arriving at the border are being almost immediately kicked out.
One of the Biden administration’s primary challenges is opening up more space to shelter unaccompanied children arriving at the border. More than 5,000 migrants are being held in Customs and Border Protection custody and thousands more are in shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services as they wait to be matched with a vetted sponsor, according to numbers from the Department of Homeland Security and HHS.