White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday repeatedly blamed Republicans after the collapse of a bipartisan deal that paired border policy changes with billions in wartime aid for Ukraine.
Throughout the press conference, Jean-Pierre accused the GOP of playing games with national security and not having a spine for supporting the deal. She said President Biden, in contrast, had taken the border issue seriously “from day one.”
“He said, ‘I’m going to put forward a legislation,’ a comprehensive immigration legislation that was introduced more than three years ago … and [Republicans],” have failed to act, Jean-Pierre said when asked if President Biden bore some responsibility for the collapsed deal.
Later on, Fox News’ Peter Doocy pressed Jean-Pierre on the matter.
“So, you guys talk a lot – including today – about how the border wouldn’t be such a big deal if Congress would have just passed your immigration bill on day one,” Doocy asked. “Who was in charge of Congress on day one?”
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Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration has called on Congress to act since Biden took office more than three years ago, but Republicans “have gotten in the way” of trying to fix the border by using the immigration crisis as a political stunt.
When President Biden took office, Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate. Republicans took back the House by a slim majority in the 2022 midterm elections.
After taking office, Biden signed two executive orders on immigration and pledged to roll back many of the policies put in place by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump. Within a few months, Biden took more than 90 actions related to the border.
Under the president’s stewardship, illegal immigration has skyrocketed to historic levels. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) report for fiscal 2023 showed that the number of illegal immigrants on the non-detained docket soared from 3.7 million in FY 2021 to nearly 4.8 million in FY 2022 to nearly 6.2 million in FY 2023.
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The number of illegal immigrants being deported has increased, according to the report, but it is still a fraction of the increase in the illegal immigrant population. There were 142,580 removals in FY 23, up considerably from 72,177 in FY 22 and 59,011 in FY 21, but still down from the highs of 267,258 under the Trump administration in FY 19.
With the 2024 election looming, Biden has for months engaged in a plan to pair policies intended to curb illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border with $60 billion in wartime aid for Ukraine. The bill would have also sent tens of billions of dollars more for Israel, other U.S. allies in Asia, the U.S. immigration system and humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza and Ukraine.
But after Republicans backed away from the compromise, the president and Senate leaders are now stranded with no clear way to advance aid for Ukraine through Congress. They have run into a wall of opposition from conservatives — led by Trump — who reject the border proposal as insufficient and criticize the Ukraine funding as wasteful.
Biden laid the blame for the bill’s demise squarely on Trump — his presumed Republican opponent in the November presidential election.
“For the last 24 hours he’s done nothing, I’m told, but reach out to Republicans in the House and the Senate and threaten them and try to intimidate them to vote against this proposal,” Biden said. “It looks like they’re caving. Frankly, they owe it to the American people to show some spine and do what they know to be right.”
Meanwhile, House lawmakers have cleared the way to advance an impeachment resolution against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, for alleging “refusing to enforce our nation’s laws.”
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“An architect of destruction at our southern border, the secretary has caused serious injury to society, as the Founding Fathers discussed,” Rep. McCaul, R-Texas, said in a statement.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.