Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the Biden administration’s efforts to reform immigration policy amid an increase in undocumented migrants at the border with Mexico in an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday.
President Joe Biden has been in office for just over 100 days, during which the number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border has skyrocketed. In March alone, 170,000 people were taken into custody by U.S. officials, the most in nearly two decades.
Republicans blame Biden’s efforts to undo ex-President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policy, saying reforms have encouraged people to flee their Central America and South America homes for the U.S. But those characterizations largely ignore ongoing crises in countries fueling the exodus, experts say.
Blinken echoed those sentiments, saying the president has said repeatedly the border is closed as the country moves to shift how it treats migrants and asylum seekers.
“What we’re seeing is indeed a surge of people to the border,” Blinken told “60 Minutes” host Norah O’Donnell. “We’ve seen that in the past. But we inherited a totally broken system. Broken intentionally. And it takes time to fix it. By the way, our message is very clear, ‘Don’t come. The border is not open. You won’t get in.’”
He continued: “But we have to understand what is motivating so many people to do this. And it is usually desperation.”
Blinken in February moved to deter migrants, saying the border was “closed” to undocumented immigrants as the administration worked to reform the system and ensure “safe, orderly and humane processing at our border.” But the number of migrants, notably unaccompanied children, has continued to increase.
Biden came under harsh criticism after reports that thousands of migrant kids were in border shelters during his first weeks in office. The number of children incarcerated by Border Patrol has fallen by more than 80% over the past month.
O’Donnell pressed Blinken on the dramatic increase in the number of migrant children at the border, asking if Biden’s policies to allow more asylum seekers to apply for protection in the U.S. had contributed. Blinken said regardless of the cause, the Biden administration would continue to allow children into the country.
“Children are the one exception, because we will not ― it’s the right thing to do,” Blinken said. “We are not going to abide the notion that children are kept in a precarious, dangerous situation. That is unacceptable.”