Joe Biden arrived well-briefed for his first news conference today, particularly when it came to immigration issues. Even when some of the questions seemed to be borrowed from the GOP's dishonest "crisis" narrative, Biden was happy to get into the weeds and talk about the problems that need to be addressed, and to push back against the idea that by reversing Donald Trump's worst policies and returning to a lawful approach to the border, Biden had somehow precipitated an unprecedented crush of immigration.

And while Biden talked about details, a lot of Immigration Twitter looked like this, from Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel for the American Immigration Council:

So what did Biden get right? Let's take a look at Mr. Policy Question Thing-Knower! Here's the presser, queued up to the first question, from PBS NewsHour's Yamiche Alcindor, who asked whether Biden was concerned that the administration's warnings that migrants shouldn't come here isn't being heard, and whether Biden's attempt to bring morality and decency back to immigration policy is causing people to come here.


After joking that maybe he should be flattered that people are saying he's such a nice guy that he can influence international migration, Biden explained that, just as immigration policy wonks have been saying, immigration patterns have relatively little to do with what one president does or says, and a lot more to do with conditions in the countries they're coming from. And immigration tends to follow cyclical patterns, he noted. Yes, there has been a 28 percent increase in unaccompanied minors coming to the border since he took office, but there was a similar uptick in unaccompanied minors in the early months of 2019, before the pandemic gave Trump an excuse to largely shut down the border last year.

It happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months. [...] Does anyone suggest that there was a 31 percent increase under Trump because he was a nice guy and he was doing good things at the border? That's not the reason they're coming.

Instead, he explained — patiently, we'd say — that for one thing, the first few months of the year are the least dangerous for Central Americans to come north, avoiding the deadly heat of the summer in the deserts. But migrants are primarily leaving because of "circumstances in-country," which is why it's vital to work with those countries to address the "root causes of why people are leaving," which was the impetus for a bipartisan plan he'd helped put together when he was Barack Obama's vice president.

Trump, Biden said, had closed down that program and largely ignored problems driving immigration, as well as shutting down parts of the immigration system designed to deal with arriving immigrants. And why wouldn't he, since Trump wanted to just make immigration stop? That emphasis on toughness at the border left Health and Human Services unable to handle the arrivals of kids on their own (not to mention all the children Trump outright took from their parents).

In a later answer, Biden scoffed at the very idea that international refugees are motivated by whether a US president has made changes to border policy:

That mother did not sit around on the kitchen table and say, "You know, I got a great idea, the way I'm going to make sure my son gets taken care of is, I'm going to…. send him on a 1,000 mile journey across a desert and up to the United States because I know Joe Biden's a nice guy and he'll take care of him."

What a desperate act ! The circumstances must be horrible. So we can do something about that.

And here's something you never heard from Trump: Biden apologized in case he was getting into too much detail. "Am I giving you too long an answer? ... I don't know how much detail you want about immigration."

As for whether he worried that rescinding a bunch of Trump's worst policies might have made coming to the border too attractive, Biden had little patience for that idea. He said Trump's policies "were not helping at all, did not slow the amount of immigration," and added, referring specifically to family separation and the "Remain in Mexico" policy that aimed to eliminate (perfectly legal!) asylum, "I make no apologies for ending programs that did not exist before Trump became president," and that was that, because cruelty and ignoring US and international law really don't constitute a policy.

Too nice? The hell with that; basic human dignity is not an option. Again referring to "Remain in Mexico," Biden said,

Well, look. The idea that I'm going to say — which I would never do — when unaccompanied child ends up [at] the border, we're just going to let them starve to death and stay on the other side? No previous administration did that either — except Trump. I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to do it.

As for the crowding at Border Patrol facilities due to the arrival of unaccompanied minors, mostly teens, Biden said the crowded conditions in some facilities are "totally unacceptable" and that he's moving to have HHS open more facilities that can handle the kids and get them reunited with sponsors in the US as quickly as possible.

So there you go: no excuses, no exaggerations, and a lot of details. It's weird, but we could get used to it!

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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