President Joe Biden still seems reticent about acknowledging the mass migration of illegal immigrants at the U.S. border as a "crisis," but whatever the name for the escalating situation, he did blame former President Donald Trump for it on Wednesday.
Notably, Biden did not utter the words "Trump" or "crisis."
"So this new surge we're dealing with now started with the last administration, but it's our responsibility to deal with it humanely, and to, uh, to stop what's happening," Biden told reporters as he announced that Vice President Kamala Harris would be point woman to deal with the border.
He did call the flood of immigrants "consequential" and said more immigrants will be sent back to their country – all after unwinding the remain in Mexico policy put in place by the Trump administration.
Biden rebuked the Trump moves as "draconian."
"So this increase has been consequential," Biden said. "The vice president has agreed to lead our diplomatic effort and work with those nations to accept their returnees and enhance migration at their enforcement at their borders."
That was a cornerstone of the remain-in-Mexico program under Trump, as he sought to deter migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador by guaranteeing their trek through Mexico would end there before they could cross over into America.
Biden, blaming climate change and Trump "eliminating" $700 million in funding to aid poor Central American countries, did call the border influx "a problem," a "surge," and a "tough job," even as he studiously avoided characterizing it as a crisis during the six minutes of remarks leading up to his Harris news.
"It's not her full responsibility or job, but she's leading the effort," Biden said. "I think the best thing to do is put someone who when he or she speaks, they don't have to wonder about is that where the president is. When she speaks, she speaks for me, doesn't have to check with me, she knows what she's doing, and I hope we can move this along."
For her part, Harris said that "there's no question this is a challenging situation," and "needless to say the work will not be easy." She hedged, however, on calling a full stop to mass migration as Trump sought, saying merely that "people should not come to the border now."
Critics have insisted that this message has not been strong or clear enough to reach migrants and deter their travel plans.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain took the baton from Harris and President Biden in the briefing and said "it's time for the press to leave" without the leaders entertaining questions.
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