Donald Trump has raised a fresh attack against Joe Biden and his administration’s immigration efforts with a mostly false statement raising fears of migrant violence and defending his policy that has left thousands of people stranded in a crisis on the other side of the US-Mexico border while their asylum cases care pending.
The former president claimed that a “spiraling tsunami at the border is overwhelming local communities, depleting budgets, crowding hospitals and taking jobs from legal American workers,” and said that completing his border wall project will “save thousands of lives”.
Mr Biden has suspended its construction, and the White House has continued to defend the new administration’s policy of housing unaccompanied minors who cross the US-Mexico border in government facilities as it seeks to dismantle core elements of the previous administration’s anti-immigration agenda.
“We don’t take our advice or counsel from former President Trump on immigration policy, which was not only inhumane, but ineffective over the last four years,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday.
“We’re going to tread our own path forward and that includes treating children with humanity and respect and ensuring they’re safe when they cross our borders,” she said.
Officials from the administration are expected to travel to the border and will provide the president with “a full briefing to him on the government response to the influx of unaccompanied minors”, she said.
The administration has abandoned Trump-era “zero tolerance” and family separation policies that imprisoned, stranded and separated thousands of immigrant families.
The administration also has rolled back the so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy that forced migrants to stay on the other side of the border while their US asylum cases were pending. More than 800 migrants with pending asylum cases have been admitted into the US, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency.
Amid a surge in young children arriving from Central America in 2021, unaccompanied children arriving at the border are being placed under Covid-19 quarantine for 10 days then connected to advocacy group services and shelters in the US.
Dozens of unaccompanied children have been arrested by US Border Patrol agents within the last month, testing the capacities of in-custody housing from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
In January, more than 5,800 unaccompanied children and nearly 7,500 families were taken into custody by border agencies, according to department data.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that HHS screens children in custody “to address the needs of that child”, including vetting family connections in the US as they await their immigration cases.
HHS and the US Office of Refugee Resettlement have reportedly requested shelters and foster centres to review their capacities as the Biden administration attempts to respond to the surge in young migrants.
Ms Psaki said that the issue “requires us to take a step back as human beings, and as mothers.”
Children are “fleeing persecution and difficult circumstances in their home countries,” she said on Friday, adding that if they are not processed and held in the US they risk being “trafficked and sent back on an unsafe journey”.
Secretary Mayorkas said that the administration has had to “rebuild out of the depths of cruelty” from his predecessors.
“Quite frankly the entire system was gutted,” he told reporters this week. “We are dedicated to achieving, and are working around the clock, to replace the cruelty of the past administration with an orderly, humane and safe immigration process.
Meanwhile, more than 65,000 migrants living on the Mexican side of border as they seek asylum in the US have waited between nine and 16 months to process their cases, immigrants rights groups have reported.
More than 7,800 migrants died in the U.S. borderlands between 1998 and 2019, according to data from US Customs and Border Protection.
The former president’s statement follows a Conservative Political Action Conference speech in which he slammed the Biden administration’s immigration policies, as his GOP allies seize another anti-immigration narrative heading into 2022 mid-term elections.