WASHINGTON — Tell us something we don’t know, Joe.
President Biden told reporters Friday that the US-Mexico border is not secure — contradicting Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — after endorsing “massive changes” in immigration policy.
“No, it’s not,” Biden said when asked whether the frontier was secure following remarks to a bipartisan group of mayors in the White House East Room.
During his speech, the 81-year-old Biden said he hoped for Senate negotiators to announce a compromise next week on border policy as part of a broader $106 billion supplemental spending request that would also finance military aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.
“I believe we need significant policy changes at the border, including changes in our asylum system to ensure that we have the authorities we need to control the border. I’m ready to act,” the president said.
“Now the question is for the [House] Speaker [Mike Johnson] and the House Republicans: Are they ready to act as well?” Biden added.
“They have to choose whether they want to solve a problem or keep weaponizing the issue to score political points against the president. I’m ready to solve the problem. I really am,” he added. “Massive changes, and I mean it sincerely.”
It’s unclear what asylum policy changes could be palatable to all three of the White House, Senate Democrats and House Republicans.
Current administration policy allows nearly all migrants who illegally cross the border to enter the US to await backlogged asylum proceedings, entitling them to work permits after an initial wait period.
Soon after taking office in 2021, Biden ended former President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required most asylum seekers to await their case rulings while remaining south of the border.
Mayorkas, whose Department of Homeland Security administers border policy, outraged Republicans in the spring of last year by repeatedly claiming “the border is secure” as record numbers of foreigners crossed illegally.
Despite apparently disavowing Mayorkas’ claims, Biden defended his DHS chief when asked about House Republican efforts to impeach and remove him, telling reporters Friday that “I don’t get it.”
Biden expressed willingness to get tough on illegal immigration as polls show dismal approval ratings for his handling of the migrant crisis after December saw an all-time high in illegal crossings, capping a record-breaking calendar year.
“I love how I turned on [TV] and, ‘Biden is for a free and open border, just tear down everything — everybody come, no restrictions,’” the president sarcastically remarked during his speech.
Biden also defended his record, including by citing reform legislation he sent Congress in 2021 that would legalize most migrants currently in the US illegally, as well as noting an October request for more border security funds after fiscal year 2023, which ended Sept. 30, also saw an all-time record for unlawful crossings.