Democrat Sen. Jeff Merkley on Thursday, unlike the Biden White House, said the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border is approaching a "crisis," but he laid the blame for the problem with the Trump administration, not on President Joe Biden's actions ending many of former President Donald Trump's immigration policies.
"What we have is a surge of children," the Oregon Democrat said on CNN's "New Day." "More than half of them were the children that were stranded for months, some for years, by the Trump administration in Mexico under completely intolerable circumstances. Now that the border is not closed, they're knocking on our door."
His comments come as Republicans, including Trump, have widely criticized the Biden administration as the numbers of immigrants, especially children, keep growing.
"The Biden administration continues to basically refuse to even admit the involvement and the necessity of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) being involved in the process," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said this week. "If you look at the Rio Grande Valley region, the number of people who were apprehended last year was about 90,000. In just the first two-and-a-half months of this year alone, there was far more than that, about 108,000."
Abbott also complained that the White House has been warned about the situation, but has not responded.
Biden administration officials have spoken out to stress that migrants shouldn't be trying to cross the border at this time, but thousands of minors have been admitted into the country and are being detained by Customs and Border Patrol without being processed out quickly into homes because of the massive numbers of arrivals.
But Merkley said Thursday that part of the issue is that "you didn't have the systems in place under the Trump administration" to handle migrants, while the Biden administration is "creating those systems, and they're doing it with a completely different vision."
He also rejected Republicans' argument that the Biden administration is inviting immigrants while working to open the border.
"I wouldn't call it an invitation, because the Biden administration has been sending the message, do not come north, and they've been talking to governments throughout the region on their strategies," said Merkley. "But, the process that they're really working on, remember that we had at one point 15,000 children in detention under the Trump administration."
Under Biden, though, "they're trying to instead quickly move these children into sponsored families," said Merkley. "They're doing that by putting case managers on overtime. When sponsors can't afford the plane tickets, they're paying for the plane tickets. They're trying to make sure that the children spend the minimum amount of time in these Border Patrol stations, where the circumstances are totally inappropriate for children."
Both White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Roberta Jacobson, the White House coordinator for the Southern border, refused to use the term crisis this week.
"I think the fact of the matter is we have to do what we do regardless of what anybody calls the situation," Jacobson said in a briefing Wednesday. "The fact is, we are all focused on improving the situation, on changing to a more humane and efficient system."
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