The White House on Thursday claimed that President Biden has “done the work” to deal with the ongoing crisis at the southern border, despite an ongoing and relentless surge of migration under his watch.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the looming end of the Title 42 public health order — which has been used to expel a majority of migrants at the southern border since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic — next week.
The end of that order, mandated by a court ruling that found the use of the authority unlawful, has led to concerns from both Republicans and Democrats that the administration is not prepared for what is widely expected to be an additional surge in migration on top of the already historic numbers seen under the administration.
There were more than 2.3 million migrant encounters in FY 2022, and FY 2023 has so far been on pace to exceed that. DHS recently requested an additional $4 billion in border funding, based on projections of between 9-15,000 migrant encounters a day once the order ends.
The numbers, which are already high and are overwhelming areas like El Paso, Texas, has renewed criticism of the Biden administration’s handling of the crisis. Jean-Pierre pushed back against that criticism.
“What Americans should know is that the president has done the work to deal with what we’re seeing at the border since day one,” she said.
Jean-Pierre highlighted the administration’s securing of additional funding for the border, including the hiring of 23,000 agents, as well as increased anti-smuggling operations. She also pointed to an early 2021 immigration plan put forward by the administration that would have legalized millions of illegal immigrants with an 8-year path to citizenship. The plan, which included limited border security provisions, would also have set up processing centers in Central America and more funded more immigration judges. The bill stalled in Congress amid Republican opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants.
“What Americans should know is that the president put forward an immigration reform policy to make sure that we’re dealing with the broken system, to make sure that we’re able to protect Dreamers, to make sure that we deal with the backlog that we’re seeing with asylum seekers, to fix the gutted system that has been around for some time, but certainly was gutted by the last administration,” Jean-Pierre said.
“He wants to do this in a bipartisan way. But what we’re seeing is Republicans continue to move forward with political stunts. Many of them are doing this, and we continue to see this for over the last several months. So the president has done the work.”
She also pointed to a six-point plan put forward by the Department of Homeland Security that includes surging resources to the border, greater cooperation with Western Hemisphere countries, greater use of alternative removal authorities and additional anti-smuggling efforts.
Republicans too have issued a slew of plans to combat the crisis at the border, but so far there has been little bipartisan agreement. Recently Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., put forward a framework that would see Title 42 extended for a year and up to $40 billion in border funding in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for two million illegal immigrants — but it is unclear if the measure has enough support in Congress.
Jean-Pierre continued to emphasize that the administration sees the initial immigration plan from 2021 as a solution to the crisis.
“Many Republicans say over and over and over again that we need to do work at the border, that we need to secure the border, but yet they refuse to work with us on this piece of legislation. Instead, what they choose to do is do political stunts. That doesn’t help,” she said.