Pressed about questions on the immigration crisis, the Democratic president, who announced that he might run again in 2024, remained evasive and cautious. Instead he highlighted his successes in the fight against the coronavirus.
What if Joe Biden’s COVID-19 strategy was just a smoke screen? Let’s be clear: The vaccination campaign in the United States is a great success. More than 100 million doses of vaccine have already been administered, the country is giving more than 2.5 million injections a day and the Democratic president set a new goal: to administer 200 million doses within his first 100 days in office. But by capitalizing on this success, and by praising the adoption of his gigantic stimulus package of $1.9 trillion by Congress, designated to heal the economic damage caused by the coronavirus, Biden hides the more delicate issues: mass shootings, which regularly plunge the United States into mourning, and above all the immigration crisis on the Mexican border, where unaccompanied minors flock in large numbers. Of the 15,000 children who have arrived, about 5,000 are currently crammed into overcrowded and unsuitable facilities.
Not a ‘Crisis’?
Thursday, during his first press conference since taking office, in front of 30 hand-picked journalists due to the current COVID crisis, the Democratic president was expected to be in the hot seat. Withdrawal from Afghanistan, North Korean missiles, power struggles with China, Russia and Iran: He didn’t escape the difficult questions. But it was the immigration issue that took over. The day before, Biden announced that he had delegated the issue to his vice president, Kamala Harris. From this point on, she is the one who will face attacks from the Republicans, who accuse the Biden administration of opening the floodgates.
The situation is explosive, but the White House continues to refuse to talk about a “crisis.” Biden had promised, during his presidential campaign, to put an end to the “moral and national shame” caused by Donald Trump’s controversial policy of separating families at the border. Now, however, with the arrival of thousands of unaccompanied minors left to their own devices, this “national shame” is once again highlighted. Biden claims to be transparent, but he is criticized for preventing the media from having access to the centers where the children are being held. The journalists and photographers who were nonetheless able to visit the site described the centers as “disgraceful.”
“[T] Border Patrol facilities … no child … should be in any longer than 72 hours” the president insisted on Thursday, promising to act “quickly” and to look at the reasons why immigrants are fleeing El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala. He also said that the “vast majority” of families who arrive at the border are sent back to their countries of origin.
’I miss him.’
Biden may say that he was elected “to solve problems, not create division,” but remains cautious and evasive on this issue. He put the current influx of immigrants into perspective by stating that they arrive “every year” at the same time — “There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months. […] The reason they’re coming is that it’s the time they can travel with the least likelihood of dying on the way because of the heat in the desert,” and accused Trump of being responsible for the situation, because he had begun dismantling the reception centers. He also expressed regret that Mexico “is refusing to take them back.” When asked if he acted too quickly by reversing the decisions Trump made through his executive orders, Biden replied, “I make no apologies for ending programs […] that have an incredibly negative impact on the law, international law, as well as on human dignity.”
Among the topics discussed, he was particularly vehement about the attempts, in certain Republican-controlled states, to impose new restrictions on voters’ rights. He considered these attempts as “un-American,” “despicable” and “pernicious.”
Biden delayed giving his first press conference, which triggered all sorts of rumors. His 15 predecessors had engaged in this exercise in the first month of their presidencies. His detractors believe that he is too protected by his team. The recent images of him tripping three times on the stairs of Air Force One have also restarted speculations about his health. At 78 years old, Biden is the oldest person to become president. But, on Thursday, sometimes searching for his words, he implied that he may run again for a second term in 2024 alongside Harris. He also indulged in a few moments of irony. Such as: “My predecessor. Oh God, I miss him.”