Biden blames Trump for border chaos and hints at executive action in Univision interview

President hinted he may take executive action to reduce migrant crossings

Eric Garcia
Washington DC
Tuesday 09 April 2024 23:01 BST
Biden blames Trump for border chaos

President Joe Biden faulted former president Donald Trump for the chaos at the US-Mexico border in an interview with Univision, and hinted that he might take executive actions to reduce migrant crossings.

Mr Biden made the remarks in an interview with Mexican journalist Enrique Acevedo as part of his efforts to improve his standing with Latino voters.

Republicans have sought to criticise Mr Biden for his immigration policies, with the GOP-controlled House of Representatives going as far as to impeach his Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

President Joe Biden, flanked by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, receives a briefing at the US-Mexico border in Brownsville, Texas
President Joe Biden, flanked by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, receives a briefing at the US-Mexico border in Brownsville, Texas (REUTERS)

Last year, crossings at the US-Mexico border reached an all-time high. The Department of Homeland Security reported that 301,000 migrant encounters in December.

Mr Biden pointed to the fact that he supported bipartisan negotiations which would have swapped aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan in exchange for measures that would have curtailed immigration and increased border security.

Some Democrats criticised the legislation for being too draconian on migrants, though Mr Biden said that he supported provisions for Dreamers, migrants whose parents brought them to the United States as children.

“I told them I was going to go back and get Dreamers et cetera., but the thing it did do, it provided for a significant more personnel to make an orderly transfer and allow legal immigration to increase, not decrease and diminish illegal immigration,” he said.

But the legislation negotiated by Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, independent Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut died after Republicans opposed it when Mr Trump did not support it.

“This is literally the truth, what happened was when Trump found out that I liked it and I supported it, and I'd get, quote, credit for it, he got on the phone – not a joke – checked with the Republicans and called them and said, don't be for it, will benefit Biden,” the president said.

“When the hell would you vote on a major piece of legislation based on whether you benefit somebody that's in politics? It's either good or it's bad. It was a good piece of legislation, and I'm not giving up on it.”

During the negotiations, Mr Biden pointed out that the bill would give him authority to “shut down” the border if more than 5,000 people crossed in a day. Mr Biden said he was open to taking executive action to do so.

“There's no guarantee that I have that power all by myself without legislation,” he said. “And some have suggested I should just go ahead and try it. And if I get shut down by the court, I get shut down by the court. But we're trying to work that, work through that right now.”

During his State of the Union address, Mr Biden tussled with Republicans for their opposition to the bill and also responded to Republicans who wanted him to mention Laken Riley, who was allegedly killed by someone in the United States illegally. Mr Biden faced criticism from some in his party for using the term “an illegal.”

Mr Biden also responded to requests from Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has called for lifting sanctions on Venzuela and Cuba, providing $20m for countries that have the highest level of migration to the US, and relief for undocumented Mexicans in the country as a way to curtail crossings at the border.

“Before Obrador even came up with that plan I initiated that plan years ago,” Mr Biden said and faulted Mr Trump for killing it. “We did and it was working for a while until they cut it off.” He said the policy helped create jobs in Latin American countries, reducing the incentive to leave in search of better prospects in the United States. “People don't want to leave where they're from. People want to be able to make sure that they have an opportunity to just make a living, and they'd rather make a living where they are.”

Mr Biden said he got along well with Mr López Obrador, who is commonly known as AMLO, and who is leaving office this year after Mexico’s election.

“I find him straightforward,” Mr Biden said. “He's never kidded me. He knows what he wants. He keeps his word. That's about as much as I can ask.”

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