A senior White House official admitted on Wednesday that President Biden’s immigration policies drew “hope” and “may have” contributed to a sharp uptick in the number of migrants apprehended at the southern border since the new administration took office.
Asked whether the timing of the increase was a coincidence, Roberta Jacobson said the prospect of “a more humane policy” under Biden “may have driven people to make that decision.”
“We’ve seen surges before. Surges tend to respond to hope, and there was a significant hope for a more humane policy after four years of pent-up demand,” said Jacobson, Biden’s National Security Council coordinator for the southern border and a former ambassador to Mexico from 2016 to 2018.
“Perhaps, more importantly, it definitely drove smugglers to express disinformation, to spread disinformation about what was now possible,” Jacobson added.
She declined to call the issue a crisis — as Republicans have — while speaking at the White House, even as the administration struggles to contain the sharp uptick in numbers.
Former President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies ramped up criminal prosecution of migrants who crossed the border illegally, and during the coronavirus pandemic, the administration began immediate deportations.
Biden has pursued a different strategy, holding children in the United States even as numbers continue to rise.
Under Trump’s Title 42 rule, adults are still sent back immediately, but children and some families are taken into custody.
Biden was briefed on the issue on Wednesday following a trip to the border over the weekend by a group of officials.
“They spent the majority of their time discussing what steps can be taken to expedite processes to move the process more quickly to meet the administration’s goal of getting these children placed with vetted and confirmed families,” press secretary Jen Psaki said.