Donald Trump has said the current influx of migrants across the southern border is ‘destroying our country’, accusing Joe Biden of having ‘eroded’ the successful system he put in place, and warning that the situation was going to get worse.
The former president spoke to Fox News on Tuesday – hours after Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security Secretary, said the U.S. was on track to see the most migrant arrivals in 20 years.
Trump said his policies ‘were working better than they have ever seen on the southern border,’ and boasted of his strong relationship with Mexico‘s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
He said they had a shared interest in stemming migrant flows, which are now surging under Biden.
‘They are destroying our country,’ said Trump.
Donald Trump on Tuesday night appeared on Fox News and discussed the migrant situation
Asylum seekers are seen crossing into the United States from Ciudad Juarez on Tuesday
‘People are coming in by the hundreds of thousands. Young children are coming in and they leave their homes and they come up because they think it is going to be so wonderful. And, frankly, our country can’t handle it.’
The number of migrants being stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border has been rising steadily since last April, and the Biden administration is still rapidly expelling most single adults and families under a public health order issued by Trump, Title 42, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it is allowing teens and children to stay, at least temporarily, and they have been coming in ever larger numbers.
More than 4,000 migrant children were being held by the Border Patrol custody as of Sunday, including at least 3,000 in custody longer than the 72-hour limit set by a court order, a U.S. official told AP.
The agency took in an additional 561 on Monday, twice the recent average, according to a second official.
Trump, seen making his most recent speech on February 28, attacked Biden’s immigration plan
Children are seen walking across the border from Mexico into the U.S. on Tuesday
It has put Biden in a difficult spot, blasted by Republicans for what they view as encouragement to illegal border crossers and by some Democrats over the the prolonged detention of minors. It’s also a challenge to his effort to overhaul the broader Trump policies that sought to curtail both legal and illegal immigration.
‘It is a crisis like we have rarely had and certainly we have never had on the border,’ said Trump.
‘But it is going to get much worse. What we are seeing now is very bad – record numbers.
‘It is going to get much, much worse with a little bit of time, you will see those numbers expand at a level like you have never seen before.’
Trump noted that Lopez Obrador had 28,000 Mexican soldiers on the border, and more troops at Mexico’s own borders with Central American nations.
A shoe is surrounded by colored wristbands placed on migrants from Central America who are smuggled from Mexico into the United States by drug cartels and human traffickers, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Some of the plastic wristbands were inscribed ‘arrivals’ or ‘entries’ in Spanish
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, the first set of wristbands were located by CBP agents as early as February. Some of the bracelets also contained a logo, such as a devil face or turtle, the latter being the logo of choice of a human trafficking group linked to the Gulf Cartel.
‘They were stopping them,’ he said. ‘We had a really good system and as the wall was finished, they could remove soldiers, but they still have the same 28,000 and we had a great relationship.
‘They understood that I was playing with tariffs if we didn’t do that, but we never had to do that to Mexico – because the relationship that we developed was very, very good, very close.
‘So we had very few people coming in. And we also stopped human trafficking. We did a lot of things and all of that has now been eroded.’
Trump said that he had seen reports of migrants arriving from Yemen and the Middle East.
‘They are coming in from everywhere,’ he said.
‘They are dropping them off and they are pouring into our country. It is a disgrace.
‘They are going to destroy our country if they don’t do something about it.’
On Tuesday Mayorkas admitted that there was a problem, but insisted it was under control.
‘The situation at the southwest border is difficult,’ he said.
‘We are working around the clock to manage it and we, will continue to do so. That is our job.’
The number of children crossing by themselves, mostly from Central America, appears to be surging in particular in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. The Border Patrol took in 280 there alone on Monday.
The total of 561 unaccompanied minors from Monday offers a snapshot of how quickly conditions have changed along the border. That was up 60 per cent from the daily average in February, officials said.
In May 2019, during the last surge, the one-day peak was 370 teens and children.
Mayorkas said the a surge in the number of children is a challenge for the Border Patrol and other agencies amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But he rejected a Trump-era policy of sending them immediately back to Mexico or other countries.
‘They are vulnerable children and we have ended the prior administration’s practice of expelling them,’ Mayorkas said.
A Honduran man in Tijuana is seen on March 1 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
At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Jim Inhofe, senator for Oklahoma, held up a photo of a small crowd of demonstrators in Tijuana, Mexico, wearing matching T-shirts with the words ‘Biden, Please Let us in’ that circulated widely on social media in recent days.
‘They’re all coming across the border, they’re coming fast, and they’re wearing Biden T-shirts,’ he said.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy led a delegation of a dozen Republican lawmakers on Monday to the border in Texas and blamed the Biden administration for driving an increase in migrants by actions that include supporting legislation in Congress that would provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented people now in the country and halting border wall construction.
‘The sad part about all of this is it didn’t have to happen. This crisis was created by the presidential policies of this new administration,’ McCarthy said.
Biden pushed back in an interview Tuesday with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, noting previous surges under Trump and pointing out that his administration has been trying to discourage people from crossing while it works to restore an asylum system undermined by his predecessor.
‘I heard the other day that they’re coming because they know I’m a nice guy,’ he said.
‘Yeah, well here’s the deal. They’re not.’
Trump did, in fact, confront a similar surge in 2019 even as he rushed to expand the border wall system along the border and forced people seeking asylum to do so in Central America or remain in Mexico.
A year earlier he forcibly separated migrant children from their families as part of a zero-tolerance campaign that became one of the most significant political challenges of his administration.
Mayorkas took swipes at the previous administration for dismantling an asylum system that would have enabled a more ‘orderly’ immigration system, cutting aid to Central America and failing to vaccinate Border Patrol agents.
He said the Biden administration is working to make the asylum process shorter and to make it possible to petition from an applicant’s home country rather than make a dangerous and uncertain journey.
‘We have no illusions about how hard it is,’ he said. ‘And we know it will take time.’