Published: 2021-03-27 11:20
Last Updated: 2021-04-11 04:43
After two months of relatively smooth in office, President Joe Biden seems to have landed in choppy waters. Faced with a migrant rush on the border with Mexico, Biden stands accused of failing to respond effectively -- and of lacking transparency with the media.
Following Biden's first press conference since taking office, many of his own party questioned his motives, including his Republican opponents amid an influx of thousands of migrants.
They have accused Biden of creating the border chaos with a naive immigration stance.
"Despite your administration's refusal to admit this is a crisis, the American people are beginning to understand the gravity of the situation," said Republican Senator Ted Cruz, announcing he would visit the border this week with 14 of his colleagues.
Cruz accused the White House of "hiding the truth" by preventing journalists from visiting border facilities, particularly those holding children.
Former President Donald Trump also chimed in, "It's insane and it's nothing compared to what it's going to be over the coming months," fanning the flames on a topic that has long been a trigger for his political base.
So far, Biden has largely avoided the issue, but faced with reporters' questions at his press conference later this week, he knows he will have to address it head on.
Asked about the issue on Sunday evening after a weekend at Camp David, Biden remained evasive.
Reporters asked if he intends to go to the border himself.
"At some point I will, yes," he said.
They asked, "Doesn't he feel the need to see for himself what is going on there?"
"I know what's going on in those facilities," he replied.
His last 10 tweets discuss masks, vaccinations, St Patrick's Day, the stimulus package, global warming and violence against Asian Americans... but not the situation on the border.
- 'The border is not open' -
The crisis is thwarting the White House's plans to continue the "Help is Here" tour, a victory lap promoting the merits of Biden's gigantic, massively popular $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan adopted by Congress.
The only presidential trip of the week is scheduled for Tuesday, where Biden will travel to Ohio to highlight the positive impact of his aid initiative, dubbed the "American Rescue Plan," on the health sector.
As a plethora of images of unaccompanied migrant children, ever-so exposed to COVID-19 are being released, the White House is struggling to provide explanations on how the issue ended up escalating and what comes next.
Ironically, Biden previously pledged to erase what he has called "a moral and national shame" inherited from Trump -- namely, the separation of thousands of migrant families, some of whom have still not been reunited.
Even while children are no longer separated from their parents at the border, the arrival of large numbers of unaccompanied minors remains a pressing issue.
"The border is not open. The majority of people are turned away," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, adding, "With children, our focus is on expediting the processing at the border and ensuring they can get to shelters as quickly as possible."
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, under fire for his vague messaging, did not deny that 5,200 children are being held in centers meant for adults at the border, rates which are well above the peak under the Trump administration.
More than 600 of these children have been held at these centers for over 10 days, despite the law allowing them to remain there for a maximum of three days.
Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, who visited these facilities in El Paso, Texas, said he saw hundreds of children packed into a "big, open room," and "fought back tears" as he listened to a little girl, distraught after being separated from her grandmother.
In The Washington Post, photographer John Moore, author of a book on the border, said Trump's "zero tolerance" toward immigrants had turned into Biden-era "zero access" for journalists.
The Biden administration "took over with a pledge to make US immigration policy more humane and transparent. But it is falling short on the latter goal, which makes it hard to judge how it is doing on the former," Moore said.