Donald Trump has said that the United States is being ‘destroyed’ by the situation at the southern border, as the number of migrants arriving from Mexico soars – presenting a major test for Joe Biden in his first 100 days as president.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Trump said that he left the U.S.-Mexico border ‘in great shape’ and the region was ‘stronger, safer and more secure than ever before.’
He also said that the border wall ‘would have easily’ been completed if not for Democrats stalling the project.
Donald Trump, pictured in New York City on Tuesday, issued a statement on immigration policy
Migrants weep as they are escorted by a Texas State Trooper on Tuesday by the Rio Grande
The trooper asks Edith and her four-year-old son Ordonez to come out of the bushes Tuesday
‘We ended Catch-and-Release, shut down asylum fraud and crippled the vicious smugglers, drug dealers and human traffickers,’ wrote the former president.
‘The Wall, despite horrendous Democratic delays, would have easily been finished by now, and is working magnificently.’
He said the current situation was ‘a terrible thing to see’.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will travel to Texas on Monday with roughly a dozen Republican members to assess the growing crisis at the southern border, his office confirmed to Axios.
The number of child migrants is proving particularly problematic, and the Biden administration continues to urge people not to send unaccompanied children across the border.
More than 3,250 unaccompanied minors are currently being held at the border. Lacking sufficient facilities and amid coronavirus burdens, more than 1,360 have been detained beyond the three days allowed by law, according to New York Times data.
Nearly 170 of those being detained are younger than 13, NBC News reported.
A total of 9,000 unaccompanied children crossed the border in February, according to data reviewed by the network.
A wave of immigrants appears to be drawn by Biden’s pledge to relax restrictions and provide a path to citizenship for people who are already living here.
Child arrivals have tripled in the last two weeks, but on Tuesday the White House said they would not term the situation a ‘crisis’.
A Honduran man in Tijuana is seen on Monday awaiting his chance to seek asylum in the US
A group of migrants ask Biden to let them in on March 2 at the Tijuana-San Ysidro crossing
‘I don’t think we need to put new labels on what we have already conveyed is challenging,’ said Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, at the daily briefing.
It was a term the administration’s top homeland official Alejandro Mayorkas has also declined to apply.
She attributed the problem, which has echoes of what the Trump administration encountered, to challenges processing unaccompanied children amid the coronavirus pandemic.
‘One of the issues we’ve had is that the COVID-19 pandemic initially severely limited the number of children that could be taken into HHS facilities and the pace at which they can happen and the pace at which that can happen,’ she said.
‘What I also think is important is to talk about what the root causes are here and what we’re doing from a policy standpoint to try and address the challenges that we’re facing and that these kids are facing as they come across the border.’
Under the law, unaccompanied child migrants must be transferred to Health and Human Services custody within 72 hours of arrival. They are usually at the hands of Custom and Border Protection while being processed.
Due to issues obtaining facilities, many are held in Customs and Border Protection holding cells known as iceboxes or ‘hieleras,’ according to NBC. They have concrete rooms and metal benches but do not have beds.
Shelters are within two weeks of surpassing their occupancy, according to the latest data.
Amid the crush, Health and Human Services Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has asked his agency for volunteers to assist with the ‘overwhelming’ number of migrants.
‘Today, I activated the Volunteer Force to support Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as they face a surge in migration along the Southwest Border,’ Mayorkas said in a staff email, Fox News reported.
Republicans, who were put on the defensive by treatment of childhood arrivals during the Trump administration, attacked the Biden administration for the policy on its watch.
‘Policy has consequences,’ said Liz Cheney, the House Conference Chair.
‘When you say that you’re not going to enforce our immigration laws, when you say that you’re not going to build a border wall, it has consequences. And we’re seeing the tragic consequences of that right now,’ she said.
Customs and Border Patrol data on unaccompanied children through January show a 64 per cent increase compared to this time last year.
In certain sectors, the jump is even more dramatic.
At the Big Bend sector in Texas, it is 141 per cent; at Del Rio in Texas it is 122 per cent.
On Tuesday Customs and Border Protection (CBP) confirmed they were shutting down three highway checkpoints in Arizona, so that their teams could be redeployed to deal with the border itself.
The agency is shutting down three checkpoints in Willcox, Arizona, until further notice, Fox News reported.
Shutting down the checkpoints will severely hamper authorities’ anti-trafficking efforts, a CBP source told Fox News.
On Tuesday night Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator who strongly adheres to Trump’s messages, warned that ‘the worst is yet to come.’
Lindsey Graham appeared on Sean Hannity’s show on Tuesday night with a warning for the US
Graham told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that the surge in unaccompanied child migrants was being sparked by Biden’s change in policies.
‘When Trump was president the minors were all sent back either to Mexico or their own country. Now they are all staying in America,’ he said.
‘And when I say the worst is yet to come – by the spring, late spring, early summer, you’re going to have families coming in caravans because the word is out in Central America: they are changing the policy that Trump put in place.
‘If you get to the border and turn yourself in, you are going to stay in America, not Mexico.
‘Until you reverse that policy, until you go back to the Remain in Mexico policy, the worse is yet to come.’
Graham said that the increase in arrivals threatened to spark an economic crisis, from what was already a humanitarian crisis.
He even speculated that it could lead to terrorism.
‘People are coming by the thousands. They’ll be coming by the hundreds of thousands by the summer,’ he said.
‘It’s a humanitarian crisis: it’s going to be an economic crisis for our cities along the border.
‘And eventually it’s going to be a national security crisis because they are children today, but they could easily be terrorists tomorrow.’
Graham said that, with the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks coming up, ‘Al-Qaeda and Isis would like nothing better than to hit us again.’
He continued: ‘And this border insecurity is a great way for terrorists to come into our country – just to blend in with our group.
‘As embarrassing and as painful as it would be for the Biden administration, they need to understand that what Trump did on the border worked.’
On Tuesday Biden was visiting a hardware store in Washington DC, on his 48th day in office without holding a solo press conference.
President Joe Biden’s aides refused to let him answer questions from reporters as he visited the W.S. Jenks & Son hardware store in Washington, DC, on Tuesday (pictured)
Biden didn’t acknowledge any questions before his aides stepped in to escort the reporters away, telling them: ‘Come on, press, you gotta go’
Biden visited W.S. Jenks & Son, which used Paycheck Protection Program money to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, to tout his extension of the program.
The president gave brief remarks and toured the store with its owners for about 10 minutes before members of the press corps began shouting questions in his direction – including several about whether there is a crisis at the Mexico border.
But Biden didn’t acknowledge any of the questions before his aides stepped in to escort the reporters away, telling them: ‘Come on, press, you gotta go.’
Trump, meanwhile, was at Trump Tower for most of Tuesday.
He arrived back in Manhattan on Sunday evening, making his first return to his hometown since leaving the White House on January 20.
On Tuesday evening Trump was seen boarding a private jet at New York’s LaGuardia airport, for his return flight to Florida
The former president’s motorcade left Trump Tower on Tuesday afternoon and made the short journey to LaGuardia airport
The former president spent his time ensconced inside the tower, accompanied by his son Donald Trump Jr. Trump, 74, was said to be keen to peer ‘under the hood’ of the Trump Organization, which his two adult sons have been running for the past four years.
He flew back to Florida on Tuesday evening, with an aide carrying an armful of boxes and folders, and a golf club.
Melania Trump and their 14-year-old son, Barron, were not seen.