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Biden defends ‘nice guy’ image on immigration

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In his first White House news conference since taking office, President Joe Biden pushed back against criticism over his handling of rising immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border, saying on Thursday that the overall increase was part of a seasonal trend that had also happened under his predecessor.

U.S. PRESIDENT, JOE BIDEN: "Well look, I guess I should be flattered people are coming because I'm the 'nice guy'. That's the reason why it's happening, that I'm a decent man or however it's phrased. That's why they're coming, because they know Biden's a nice guy. The truth of the matter is nothing has changed. As many people came, 28 percent increase in children to the border in my administration. 31 percent in the last year, in 2019 before the pandemic, in the Trump administration. It happens ever, single solitary year."

But the surge of migrants at the southern border has thrust Biden into an emerging humanitarian and political crisis.

And while he condemned some of Trump's immigration policies, he said he would keep one in place that allows border agents to rapidly expel tens of thousands of people. But Biden said he would not deport unaccompanied children.

BIDEN: "The idea that I'm going to say - which I would never do - if an 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."

Biden said on Thursday that the "vast majority" of families are being sent back to Mexico under the Trump-era health order known as Title 42.

U.S. PRESIDENT, JOE BIDEN, SAYING: "They should all be going back -- all be going back."

But U.S. government data suggests that more than half of the 19,000 family members detained at the border in February were not expelled, with many released into the United States to pursue immigration court cases.

Video Transcript

JOE BIDEN: And I'd like to think it's because I'm a nice guy, but it's not.

- In his first White House news conference since taking office, President Joe Biden pushed back against criticism over his handling of rising immigration at the US-Mexico border, saying on Thursday that the overall increase was part of a seasonal trend that had also happened under his predecessor.

JOE BIDEN: Well, look, I guess I should be flattered people are coming because I'm the nice guy. That's the reason why it's happening, that I'm a decent man, or however it's phrased. That's why they're coming, because they know Biden's a good guy. The truth of the matter is nothing has changed.

As many people came, 28% increase in children to the border in my administration. 31% in the last year, in 2019 before the pandemic, in the Trump administration. It happens every single, solitary year.

- But the surge of migrants at the southern border has thrust Biden into an emerging humanitarian and political crisis. And while he condemned some of Trump's immigration policies, he said he would keep one in place that allows border agents to rapidly expel tens of thousands of people. But Biden said he would not deport unaccompanied children.

JOE BIDEN: The idea that I'm going to say-- which I would never do-- if an 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.

- Biden said on Thursday that the vast majority of families are being sent back to Mexico under the Trump-era health order known as Title 42.

JOE BIDEN: They should all be going back-- all be going back.

- But US government data suggests that more than half of the 19,000 family members detained at the US border in February were not expelled, with many released into the United States to pursue immigration court cases.