Joe Biden warning potential migrants against coming to the United States after a recent surge in unaccompanied minors arriving at the border.
The president told ABC News in an interview that aired on Tuesday: "I can say quite clearly: Don't come.”
“We’re in the process of getting set up,” Mr Biden added. “Don’t leave your town, or city or community”.
It comes as the number of unaccompanied minors at the border wall with Mexico was reportedly over 4,000 on Sunday — a more than 30 per cent increase on the week before.
The surge in the number of children arriving into the custody of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has strained the process of finding shelter for the children currently at the border.
At least 3,000 children have remained with CBP for over the 72 hour legally permitted, after which they are supposed to be transferred to the custody of health officials in the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
Alejandro Mayorkas, the US Homeland Security Secretary, said in a statement on Tuesday that Biden officials were working to speed-up the process — and refused to revive a Trump-era practice of expelling minors.
The secretary added that although “we have experienced migration surges before” the US was "on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years."
Mr Biden, who was facing criticism for the situation at the border on Tuesday, added that a surge was seen as recently as in 2019, and again in 2020, under former US president Donald Trump.
The US president pushed back on the suggestion from ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos that the administration should have been prepared for the surge, following a post-election promise to “undo the moral and national shame of the previous administration”.
“A lot of the migrants coming in are saying they are coming in because you promised to make things better, Mr Stephanopoulos said. “It seems to be getting worse by the day. Was it not a mistake to anticipate this surge?”
Mr Biden told the ABC anchor: “The idea that ‘Joe Biden said come’....I heard the other day that they’re coming because they know I’m a nice guy.”
“They’re saying this,” Mr Stephanopoulos told the president, to which he shot back: “Well here's the deal. They’re not.”
Mr Mayorkas added on Tuesday that adults were in fact being sent back from the border at this time, while many migrants were having a second attempt at crossing into the US following Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, as well as due to economic and weather-related crises in South America.
Roughly 80 per cent of the minors arriving at the US-Mexico border were described as having relatives in the US, whole 40 per cent had a parent, Mr Mayorkas added.
Critics of the US president have called the surge in unaccompanied children at the border a “crisis”, and argued that a pledge to show more compassion to migrants had caused the recent increase, following the former administration’s tougher stance — which saw families separated.