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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

By Terence Jeffrey, via The Daily Signal | January 17, 2024

President Joe Biden—wearing a brown leather jacket and a black baseball hat—walked out onto the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday morning on his way to Marine One.

He was flying to Camp David for the weekend. But first he stopped to talk to some reporters.

“Mr. President,” one of them asked, “would you call the situation on the southern border a ‘crisis’?”

“No,” said Biden, according to the White House transcript, “but I wish they would react. I’ve been pushing them—my Republican colleagues—since I got into office. I think we have to make major changes at the border. I’ve been pushing it. I’m prepared to make significant alterations at the border. And there are negotiations going on for the last five weeks, so I’m hopeful we’ll get there.”

Another reporter asked Biden if he was willing to take “executive action when it comes to the border to address the border crisis if Republicans don’t pass more funding?”

“Well, Republicans have to pass funding,” Biden said. “They have to—I’ve read one Republican said, ‘We don’t want our border [inaudible] it’ll only help Biden.'”

“I’ve been pushing for fundamental change on the border for a long time—a long time,” said Biden. “And so, I’m hopeful. I’m going to let those negotiations play out. But other than that, I’m going to take action myself.”

Ten days before Biden had this exchange with reporters, House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., took a group of more than 60 House Republicans to visit the U.S.-Mexico border at Eagle Pass, Texas.

As these members of Congress gave a press conference there—on the banks of the Rio Grande—a group of illegal aliens began crossing the river behind them. As recorded by C-SPAN, one reporter mentioned this to House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan as he took his turn at the podium.

Jordan, R-Ohio, expressed no surprise.

Some reporters moved behind the members of Congress to record the illegal aliens as they came into the United States.

KSAT-TV, an ABC affiliate based in San Antonio, was one news organization that caught video of them.

“A family of five migrants was captured by KSAT photojournalist Gavin Nesbitt crossing the Rio Grande Wednesday as U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson and other congressional Republicans held a nearby press conference about immigration,” the TV station reported on its website.

“The two adults and three children could be seen from the staging area of the press conference crossing into Eagle Pass, Texas, from Mexico,” the station said. “Border Patrol agents called out to the migrants in Spanish to tell them to turn around.”

“Once the family set foot in the United States,” KSAT reported, “the agents gave water to the children, who were in pajamas. Then, they loaded the family up in a van.”

Is Biden right that there is no crisis at the border? Or was it profoundly symbolic of that very crisis that as the speaker of the House and other members of Congress were holding a press conference at the border, people were illegally crossing it right behind them?

In fiscal year 2020—the last full fiscal year when President Donald Trump was in office—the Border Patrol encountered 405,036 aliens trying to illegally cross into the United States between ports of entry, according to data published by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

In fiscal year 2021, when Biden came into office, that number jumped.

“Total [Border Patrol] encounters rose markedly to nearly 1.7 million encounters in FY 2021, the highest number ever recorded at that time,” the Congressional Research Service said in a report published May 16.

“In FY 2022, the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) encountered more than 2.2 million foreign nationals (aliens) crossing into the United States illegally between ports of entry, the largest number in its history,” the report said.

In fiscal year 2023, according to the data published by Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol encountered another 2,063,692 aliens illegally crossing into the United States between ports of entry.

That is a 244% increase from the 405,036 illegal aliens the Border Patrol encountered during Trump’s last full fiscal year in office.

Included in this surge were children who came here without their parents.

“Unaccompanied alien children,” the Congressional Research Service said in a report published last June 28, “are statutorily defined as minors under 18 who possess neither lawful U.S. immigration status nor a parent or legal guardian in the United States immediately available to provide care and physical custody.”

“Since early 2021,” the CRS report said, “annual encounters involving unaccompanied alien children (UC, unaccompanied children) at the U.S.-Mexico border by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have remained at record-high levels.”

“Since February 2021,” the report said, “UC encounters have consistently exceeded 8,500 per month, higher than any period since CBP began publishing statistics.”

As this column has noted before, the Border Patrol in recent years has also encountered a growing number of individuals on the terrorist watchlist trying to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border between ports of entry.

That number increased from just three in fiscal year 2020 to 169 in fiscal year 2023. In other words, about 56 times as many individuals on the terrorist watchlist were caught trying to sneak across the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2023 as in fiscal year 2020.

Is that because Biden has done a better job securing the border than Trump? Or is it because Biden has presided over a crisis at our border that threatens the security of this country?

Terence P. Jeffrey is investigative editor for the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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