Analysis

Biden Makes False Claims About Border Crisis: ‘We’re Not’ Holding Children ‘In Cells,’ Separating From Parents

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WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 22: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during an announcement related to small businesses at the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building February 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden announced changes to the Paycheck Protection Program aimed at helping small and minority-owned business to qualify for federal loans due to the economic impact that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Democrat President Joe Biden made numerous false claims during excerpts of an ABC News interview that aired on Tuesday evening about the border crisis that is unfolding under his watch.

During the interview, host George Stephanopoulos pressed Biden about the historic crisis, which Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas confirmed this week is projected to hit the highest level ever recorded by DHS.

When asked about the thousands of unaccompanied minors who are flooding the southern border, Biden responded, “Do you repeat what Trump did, take them from their mothers, move them away, but hold them in cells, etc.? We’re not doing that.”

That is a false claim.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that thousands of unaccompanied minors were being kept in “facilities akin to jails as the Biden administration struggles to find room for them in shelters.” The Times reported this week that “children are being forced to sleep on gym mats with foil sheets and go for days without showering” and that “many children” had “not been allowed outdoors for days on end.” USA Today reported during the first week in March that “the Biden administration is still sheltering children separated from close family members in federal facilities for weeks on end.”

It is worth noting that the children being separated under Biden are not being separated under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which received pushback at the time. However, in the clip published by ABC News, Biden never refers to Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy and says they are not taking children from their parents, which is just not true. As USA Today noted, “the migrant children often arrive with a grandparent, older sibling or other relative but are separated until federal officials can confirm the accompanying adult is their relative, as required under U.S. law.”

The crisis is so severe that CBS News reported earlier this month that at least one facility in Texas, which was designed to house hundreds of people, was operating at “729% of its pandemic-era capacity.” CBS also broke major news on Tuesday evening when they reported that the number of unaccompanied minors in U.S. custody was over 13,000, which is more than 300% higher than the reported at the start of the week. CBS News host Norah O’Donnell added that the children “are being held in U.S. custody for an average of 120 hours, far longer than the 72 hours allowed by law.”

The interview continued several moments later:

STEPHANOPOLOUS: How do you cut through the red tape and make sure those kids get to a contact as quickly as possible? Our reporters on the scene are saying they’re seeing total mayhem there right now.

BIDEN: Well, what you get, what you have to do is you have to try to get control of the mess that was inherited. And the way to get control the mess was [in]herited. I mean, look, here’s what our– , the plan is. You may remember, when we had this unaccompanied children on the border, when Barack was president, he called me back, I was in Turkey and said, ‘You got to take care of this.’ And I was able to get a bipartisan bill passed for almost $800 billion to go to the root cause and why people are leaving. Why are they leaving El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, because they’re in terrible circumstances, either because of natural disasters and hurricanes, gangs or violence, they’re trying to escape. And that’s why they’re coming.

Numerous former federal officials have stated that Biden is responsible for the crisis on the border, including former DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, former Acting ICE Director Tom Homan, former Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan, as well as local sheriffs in Texas and Arizona. Even Mexico’s left-wing government is reportedly worried that Biden is “stoking illegal immigration” and “creating business for organized crime.” Biden National Security Council Coordinator Roberta Jacobson even appeared to admit the administration’s policies were at least in part a driver for the surge at the border, saying that it was a response to “a significant hope for a more humane policy after four years of pent up demand.”

Mayorkas has tried to claim that Trump “completely dismantled the asylum system,” but Lora Ries, senior research fellow for homeland security & former acting DHS deputy chief of staff, told the Heritage Foundation:

Mayorkas’ claims are simply false. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services hired approximately 500 additional asylum officers to advance the Trump administration’s priority of reducing the asylum backlog. The administration also shifted resources to prioritize the asylum backlog and those seeking protection at our own border. The Trump administration inherited a back-logged asylum system, and wisely chose to focus on reducing this backlog throughout his term. More individuals were granted asylum by DHS and DOJ during the four years of the Trump administration than under the last four years of the Obama administration. Total asylum grants in 2019 alone – 46,508 – were the highest annual total since at least 1990.

Wolf also took a shot at Biden’s claims about what it is driving the surge at the border, telling the Heritage Foundation:

DHS blames the Biden border crisis on violence in Northern Triangle countries, hurricanes, and the pandemic. To be clear, conditions are not so dramatically different in the Northern Triangle from years past to explain this historic surge.  Not once is responsibility taken for disastrous messaging and the removal of effective immigration policies without a clear plan in place. This is absurd. Monthly apprehensions nearly doubled between summer of 2020 and February 2021, because the Biden campaign and then the Biden administration was sending a clear signal to the world – if you arrive soon, you will receive amnesty.

Biden’s claim that he was “able to get a bipartisan bill passed for almost $800 billion to go to the root cause and why people are leaving” is also false. He did help get a bill passed, but it was only for $750 million, a significantly smaller amount than Biden claimed.

Later in the interview, Biden claimed: “… but the vast majority, let us get something straight though, the vast majority of people crossing the border are being sent back. They’re being sent back, immediately sent back.”

Again, Wolf pushed back on a claim similar to this, telling the Heritage Foundation:

The administration is not utilizing all of its authorities with regards to the surge of family units. The facts tell us that the administration is not expelling ‘most’ families under Title 42 as they claim. According to DHS data, the administration expelled only 41% of family units in February, down from 76% in December under the Trump administration. Washington Post reporter Nick Miroff pointed out this fact just this week. This is important, as the smugglers and cartels will capitalize on this fact and continue to push family units across the border, knowing that a majority will remain.

WATCH:

TRANSCRIPT:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOLOUS, ABC NEWS HOST: Let’s talk about the crisis at the border. Some heartbreaking scenes down there–

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT: Yeah.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: –right now and a lot of the migrants coming in saying they’re coming in because you promised to make things better. It seems to be getting worse by the day. Was it a mistake not to anticipate this surge?

BIDEN: Well, first of all, there was a surge, the last two years and 19 and 20, there was a surge as well–

STEPHANOPOLOUS: –this one might be worse.

BIDEN: No, well, it could be. But here’s the deal. We’re sending back people to f–, f–, first of all, the idea that Joe Biden said, ‘come,’ because I heard the other day that they’re coming, because I know I’m a nice guy, and I won’t do what Trump did.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: They’re saying this.

BIDEN: Yeah. Well, here’s the deal. They’re not. The adults are being sent back, number one. That’s number one. Now, number two, what do you do with an unaccompanied child that comes to the border? Do you repeat what Trump did? Do you repeat what Trump did take them from their mothers, move them away, but hold them in cells, etc.? We’re not doing that. So, what we’re doing is, we have brought in brought in HHS and also brought in FEMA, to provide for enough safe facilities for them to not to get out of the control of the Border Patrol, which was not designed to hold people for long periods of time, particularly children, get them out of those facilities. And most of them come with a phone number to that they have someone in the country. So what we’re doing is we’re putting together an entire organizational structure, so that within seven days, or [inaudible mumbles] you’re getting the phone, contact that number, find out whether there is a mother or a father, whether it is safe, whether is a secure circumstance to get the child to that adult.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: How do you cut through the red tape and make sure those kids get to a contact as quickly as possible? Our reporters on the scene are saying they’re seeing total mayhem there right now.

BIDEN: Well, what you get, what you have to do is you have to try to get control of the mess that was inherited. And the way to get control the mess was [in]herited. I mean, look, here’s what our– , the plan is. You may remember, when we had this unaccompanied children on the border, when Barack was president, he called me back, I was in Turkey and said, ‘You got to take care of this.’ And I was able to get a bipartisan bill passed for almost $800 billion to go to the root cause and why people are leaving. Why are they leaving El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, because they’re in terrible circumstances, either because of natural disasters and hurricanes, gangs or violence, they’re trying to escape. And that’s why they’re coming. So what I did, I spent close to 100 hours with the leaders of those three countries and the U.N., making sure that we’re a do–, for example, in one of the major cities down there, they said the crime rates are terrible. That’s why people were leaving this particular city. But we have no street lighting. And the government said, give us the money and put it– I said, I’m not going to give you the money. But I’ll tell you what, show me what you need, I’ll get contractors down there, we’ll put in the streetlights for you, because a lot of corruption down there. And guess what violence came down. And that’s going to take some time, though, to get those policies in place, again.

STEPHANOPOLOUS: Do you have to say quite clearly, don’t come?

BIDEN: Yes, I can say quite clearly don’t come and what we’re in the process of getting set up, and it’s not going to take a whole long time, is to be able to apply for asylum in place. So don’t leave your town or city or community, we’re going to make sure we have facilities in those cities and towns, run by the Department of by DHS and also access with HHS, the Health and Human Services to say, you can apply for asylum from where you are right now. Make your case, we’ll have people there to determine whether or not you are able to meet the requirements, you qualify for asylum. That’s the best way to do this. In addition to that, when we also change the circumstances on the ground in those communities, you’re going to diminish the reason why people want to leave in the first place. It’s not like someone’s sitting in Guadalajara right now in Mexico, which is not the biggest problem right now, and saying, I got a great idea, let’s sell everything we have, give it to a coyote, give them our kids, take them across the border, leave in the desert where they don’t speak the language. Won’t that be fun? That’s not why people can’t come, they come because their circumstances so bad. Now, some come because they want a better opportunity for economic reasons. They don’t qualify. And so in the meantime, what we should be doing is making sure we provide beds for these children. By the way, over 50% of the children coming are ages 16 and 17, 16 and 17, they’re not, most of them are not little babies. One percent are young, young kids. And so what we’re doing now is we’re providing for, in the past, what you do is, HHS would take them to licensed providers. So there’s bed security, where there’s health care, there’s, they’re, they’re, they’re fed, they’re cared for, while they determine whether or not there is someone in the United States they’re entitled to go to. And that’s what we’re in the process of doing now. We will have, I believe by the next month, enough of those beds to take care of these children who have no place to go. But they need to be taken care of while, while they’re, but the vast majority, let us get something straight though, the vast majority of people crossing the border are being sent back. They’re being sent back, immediately sent back.

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