President Joe Biden heads to Pennsylvania on Tuesday to kick off his COVID relief sales pitch in a series of battleground states as Republicans slam him for going on tour instead of visiting the border.
Biden will visit a small business in the Philadelphia suburbs as Vice President Kamala Harris makes a stop in Denver to talk with small business owners. Both Pennsylvania and Colorado were essential wins for Biden when he defeated Donald Trump in last year’s election.
The president also will tape an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in Pennsylvania that will air on ‘Good Morning America’ Wednesday morning.
Then Biden and Harris will appear together in Atlanta on Friday. The Democrats’ win in two Georgia special Senate elections gave the party control of the Senate. And the votes of Democratic Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock from that state helped make the legislation law.
The administration is touting the benefits coming with its $1.9 trillion America Recue Package but Republicans have slammed the president for going on a roadshow during an immigration crisis at the border.
President Joe Biden heads to Pennsylvania on Tuesday to kick off his COVID relief sales pitch in a series of battleground states
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy challenged President Joe Biden to come to border and see situation for himself
In February, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested about 100,000 people at the southern border – including nearly 9,500 unaccompanied children – a 28 per cent jump over January.
And more than 4,200 kids are being held in jail-like stations unfit to house them with the government building more shelters to handle the surge.
‘It’s more than a crisis. This is a human heartbreak,’ House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters after he and a group of GOP lawmakers who visited a detention center in El Paso, Texas, on Monday. ‘The sad part about that is this didn’t have to happen. This crisis is created by the presidential policies of this new administration.’
‘I know the president’s going to travel this week. This is where he should bring Air Force,’ McCarthy said. ‘This is where he should look the people in the eye. This is where he should talk to the border agents, and let them know that this is beyond a crisis.’
The American public gives the Biden administration high marks for its COVID relief plan – which did not garner a single GOP vote in Congress – leaving Republicans searching for an issue headed into the midterm elections.
Even some Democrats are questioning the administration’s handling of the thousands of unaccompanied minors.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate Texas Democrat whose district is on the border with Mexico, expressed his unhappiness with the president.
‘His people need to do a better job of listening to those of us who have done this before,’ he told The Washington Post.
‘The Republicans will turn around and use this for a political weapon against Democrats — that we’re weak on the border, we’re not doing enough, we’re letting everybody in,’ he noted. ‘I’ve been warning the party and the administration: Don’t let this get out of hand, because all you’re going to do is you’re going to give Republicans an issue.’
Biden lifted the Trump policy that required migrants to remain in Mexico while going through the legal process to enter the U.S., narrowed the ICE’s criteria for arrests and deportations and stopped the building of Trump’s border wall.
The White House still refuses to call the thousands of migrant children being held – some without beds or enough food – a ‘crisis,’ but press secretary Jen Psaki did say it is a ‘big problem.’
She also blamed Donald Trump’s administration for leaving the border a mess.
‘We recognize this is a big problem. The last administration left us a dismantled and unworkable system, and like any other problem, we’re going to do everything we can to solve it,’ she said at her briefing on Monday.
Psaki was asked multiple times if the president would consider a trip to the border.
‘I don’t have any trips to preview at this point in time,’ she said.
She said Biden’s focus ‘is on developing solutions, pushing his team, encouraging his team to develop solutions that will expedite processing at the border, that will open more facilities that will ensure kids are treated with humanity and also treated safely. And that’s his focus, and so that’s where he’s putting his efforts on immigration.’
Migrant children and teenagers from the southern border of the United States being held a temporary facility in Midland, Texas
Intensive care tents sit in a row at a Influx Care Facility (ICF) for unaccompanied children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, where another temporary shelter has been built
The administration is struggling to house a surge of migrant children as they work to process the minors so the children can be transferred to Department of Health and Human Services shelters where they would stay until they could be united with family members already in the U.S. or with a sponsor.
The children are supposed to be transferred to DHS within three days of being caught by border agents.
Border agents are apprehending more than 400 children a day, however, which is many more than the number of children that HHS is processing and releasing to sponsors.
Media is not being allowed inside the shelters but lawyers are. Some of the attorneys told CBS News that the children told them they are hungry; only showering once in as many as seven days; and are not able to call family members.
Psaki said the situation was ‘heartbreaking’ for the kids but there were not a lot of options.
‘This is heartbreaking. It’s a very emotional issue for a lot of people, and it’s very difficult and challenging. And obviously, these CBP facilities are not made for kids,’ she said.
‘It’s not acceptable, but I think the challenge here is that there are only there are not that many options,’ she said. ‘The options here are send the kids back on the journey, send them to unvetted homes or work to expedite moving them into shelters where they can get health treatment by medical doctors, by educational resources, legal counseling, mental health counseling. That’s exactly what we’re focused on doing.’
Meanwhile, a new center was opened in Midland, Texas, on Sunday to help alleviate the overcrowding caused by the record number of migrants. A shelter also was recently opened in Carrizo Springs, Texas.
The Biden administration also directed the shelters to return to normal capacity, despite the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, social distancing and other health protocols were in place to combat the disease.
Additionally the administration is looking at using The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas to house migrants as they run out of space, the Associated Press reported. The center is estimated to be able to hold 3,000 children.