WASHINGTON — President Biden claimed Tuesday that “I’ve done all I can do” to secure the US-Mexico border — prompting House Speaker Mike Johnson to say that was “simply not true.”
“I’ve done all I can do. Just give me the power. I’ve asked from the very day I got into office,” the 81-year-old president told a reporter on the White House lawn as he departed for a fundraising jaunt to South Florida.
“Give me the Border Patrol, give me the people, the judges — give me the people who can stop this and make it work right,” he added.
Johnson (R-La.) fired back on X, “That is simply untrue. He’s either lying or misinformed.”
The speaker added: “Here are just a few of the authorities at his disposal – if only he would use them: • Presidential Authority to Restrict Entry 212(f) • Expedited Removal 235(b)(1) • Discretionary Detention Authority 236(a) • Mandatory Detention 236(c). No more excuses.”
Biden’s claim that Republicans are preventing border security reflects White House messaging as conservatives, including Johnson, express resistance to the reported details of legislation being discussed in bipartisan Senate talks — which critics say could actually worsen the crisis by drawing more migrants to the US.
Johnson said Friday that any new restrictions in the potential Senate deal could be ignored by Biden and added that the president should “demonstrate his good faith by taking immediate actions to secure” the border.
Biden, who conceded earlier this month that the border is not secure and said that “massive changes” are needed, ran for president in 2020 vowing to rescind former President Donald Trump’s hardline border policies.
On his first day in office, Biden halted construction of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall and later ended his predecessor’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required most asylum seekers to await rulings on their claims of persecution while south of the border.
Biden’s claim that he asked for more border powers on his first day refers to proposed legislation giving a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the US while streamlining asylum processes for new arrivals. The proposal, which Republicans decried as a potential magnet for more illegal immigration, also would have invested money in border-security technology.
Republicans have been pressing Biden to readopt stricter Trump-era border policies, including detaining people who illegally cross the border.
The House Homeland Security Committee was expected to approve articles of impeachment Tuesday against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for allegedly failing to enforce the laws — including a provision that says asylum seekers “shall be detained” pending their case outcome if they illegally enter the US.
The number of illegal southern border crossings hit an all-time monthly record of more than 302,000 people — equivalent to the population of Pittsburgh or Newark — in December, according to federal data released Friday.
Under Biden, the vast majority of people who illegally cross are being allowed into the US to await asylum rulings. They are entitled to work permits as their claims pend before a backlogged review system.
Mayorkas, who has repeatedly insisted at congressional hearings that “the border is secure,” said this month that more than 85% of those detained for illegally crossing the border were being released into the US — up from 71% in October and 74% in November.
The Biden administration also has established a special “parole” program for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans that allows a combined 30,000 people per month from those countries to enter the US through ordinary means such as flying and then await their case rulings.
Nearly 2.5 million people — almost as many as live in Chicago — were apprehended after illegally crossing the US-Mexico border in fiscal 2023, which ended Sept. 30, in addition to an estimated 670,000 “gotaways” who evaded authorities.
Fiscal 2022 saw a then-record of nearly 2.4 million apprehensions — up from 1.7 million in fiscal 2021.
The border crisis is a liability for Biden going into his expected rematch against Trump. A Pew Research poll released last month found that just 32% of Americans believed Biden could make “wise decisions about immigration policy.”
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