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President Biden is finally calling the chaos at the southern border what it is — a crisis.
The startling rhetorical turnabout came Saturday in an off-the-cuff conversation with reporters in Wilmington, Del., as Biden tried to defend his Friday flip-flop on refugee admissions.
“We’re going to increase the number [of refugees allowed into the country],” Biden said as he headed home after playing the first golf game of his presidency. “The problem was that the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up on the border with young people.”
“We couldn’t do two things at once,” he added. “But now we are going to increase the number.”
In his somewhat garbled comment, Biden seemed to be saying that the strain of handling the influx of migrant children has overtaxed the nation’s immigration authorities — making it impossible for them to handle an increase in authorized refugees as well.
On Friday, hours after Biden signed an executive order retaining the Trump administration’s 15,000-person cap on refugee admissions for this year, White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a hasty announcement saying that the White House will unveil an undisclosed higher cap on May 15.
The sudden switcheroo came after progressive Democrats, led by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), excoriated the initial decision on social media.
But in his justification, Biden may have given his press office a new headache, by using the very word — “crisis” — his administration, including Psaki and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, has staunchly been avoiding for months.
The dramatic surge of migrants rushing across the Mexican border into the U.S. — with 172,000 apprehended in March alone, a 15-year record — has overwhelmed the Customs and Border Patrol, Republicans charge.
“We have a very serious challenge and I don’t think the difficulty of that challenge could be overstated,” Mayorkas said at a congressional hearing last month. “We also have a plan to address it,” he added.
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