Psaki Says Migrant Influx ‘Began during the Trump Administration’

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds the daily press briefing in Washington, D.C., May 4, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

At a briefing Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the influx of migrants arriving at the southern border “began during and was exacerbated by the Trump administration.”

Migrant encounters at the border have increased steadily since May 2020, but skyrocketed in February 2021 after the Biden administration assumed office, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data.

“After four years of an immigration system rooted in destructive and chaotic policies, President Biden is taking the challenge head on and is building a fair, orderly, and human immigration system. That’s our objective,” Psaki remarked.

The dramatic jump in border apprehensions coincided with the timing of an array of Biden administration executive actions, including a temporary deportation moratorium; a pause in border wall construction; a recall of the “Remain in Mexico” policy which required asylum-seekers to wait in their home countries until their claims were processed; and other reversals of Trump-era enforcement measures.

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Border patrol detained 172,331 migrants in March, breaking a 15-year record. Additionally, a record number of unaccompanied minors were taken into custody. HHS and the Biden administration scrambled to accommodate the number of undocumented children, with many detention facilities along the border being overwhelmed and strapped for resources.

Migrants interviewed at the southern border have repeatedly cited Biden’s immigration policies as the impetus for their journey and survey data shows that migrants and the traffickers who prey on them scrutinize policy in determining when to make the journey.

At a news conference on March 25, Biden characterized the increase in illegal crossings as a seasonal incidence not resulting from his policies.

“The truth of the matter is: Nothing has changed,” Biden said. “It happens every single, solitary year.”

Addressing reporters in the briefing room Tuesday, Psaki commented that the Department of Homeland Security will also begin “reuniting families that were separated by the policies of the previous administration.”

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