Biden Vows Action on Migrants as He Defends Border Policy
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. will take steps to more quickly move hundreds of migrant children and teens out of cramped detention facilities along the Southwest border, President Joe Biden said. He was pushing back against suggestions that his administration’s policies are responsible for the rising number of people seeking to enter the country.
Pressed repeatedly on the border issue at his first news conference since taking office, Biden said Thursday his administration was taking steps to address the situation with measures such as setting aside space at a Texas Army base for about 5,000 unaccompanied minors. But he mostly fired back at criticism.
He noted that his administration, as was done under President Donald Trump, is continuing to quickly expel most adults and families under a public health order imposed at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. The crucial difference is that the government is allowing teens and children, at least temporarily, to stay in the country, straining government resources during the pandemic.
“The only people we’re not going to let be left sitting there on the other side of the Rio Grande by themselves with no help are children,” he said.
The situation along the U.S.-Mexico border has become an early challenge for the administration, drawing more questions than any other subject at the maiden news conference, and diverting attention as the administration addresses the pandemic and the economy.
The number of migrants attempting to cross the border is at the highest level since a spring 2019 surge under Trump, according to the most recently released statistics. The numbers appear to be rising and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas recently warned they are on pace to hit a 20-year peak.
Biden sought to portray it as a seasonal spike and not, as critics have said, a result of moves such as his decisions to halt construction of border wall projects started under Trump or support for broad immigration legislation.
“It happens every year,” he said. “Does anybody suggest that there was a 31% 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.”
Trump responded to a sharp increase in border crossings in 2019 by requiring migrants to wait in Mexico while the U.S. evaluated their asylum petitions or to make claims instead in Guatemala, El Salvador or Honduras. Those Trump-era programs were criticized for sending people fleeing violence back into dangerous situations.
Former acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf, now a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said Thursday that Biden invited the current crisis by ending those programs and other measures. “He took away all of the consequences, at the same time he began to message that it was perfectly acceptable to come,” he said.
Biden, for his part, condemned the Trump-era requirement that migrants await their asylum claims in Mexico as “sitting on the edge of the Rio Grande in a muddy circumstance with not enough to eat.” He also criticized an earlier policy of separating children from their families at the border and argued that it’s conditions in people’s home countries that push them to the U.S. border.
“It’s because of earthquakes, floods. It’s because of lack of food. It’s because of gang violence,” he said. “It’s because of a whole range of things that when I was vice president had the same obligation to deal with unaccompanied children.”
Biden said that his administration is working to help the countries where migrants are coming from with long-term solutions to their issues, citing $700 million in aid going to Central America.
The number of migrants encountered by authorities along the Southwest border has been rising since April, shortly after the Trump administration imposed a public health order authorizing Customs and Border Protection to quickly expel most people. Many of those are repeat crossers, trying again after they have been sent back.
But in recent weeks, the number of unaccompanied minors has dramatically increased, straining the ability of CBP to hold them in their detention facilities until they can be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services. The department houses them until they can be placed with relatives or sponsors while the government decides whether they have a legal claim for residency, either under asylum or for some other reason.
The government said there were nearly 5,000 children in Border Patrol custody as of Tuesday and an additional 11,551 at Department of Health and Human Services shelters.
Biden said the administration was opening up bed space at Fort Bliss, Texas, and was taking steps to more quickly to establish the identity of relatives in the U.S. so the minors can be moved out of government custody.
More than 100,000 migrants were stopped crossing the border in February, the most recent statistics publicly available. Most were single adults and were quickly turned back. Most families are being turned away as well, though Mexico has been refusing to accept some in shelters during the pandemic. Biden says it is working with the Mexican government to take more of them and to shore up its own border.
Wolf, however, is skeptical that any efforts by the Mexican government will make much of a difference. “The dynamics aren’t going to change unless the policies change,” he said.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer to attend the United States Conference of Mayors in Ohio
ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer will attend the 91st Annual Meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors in Columbus, Ohio and speak on several sessions, including one entitled, “Three Ways to Put Your City on the Sports Map,” and another panel on responding to mass shootings.
The United States Conference of Mayors is the official non-partisan organization of mayors leading cities with populations of 30,000 or more and focuses on some of the most pressing challenges facing cities and key priorities including mental health, homelessness, public safety, technology, innovation, infrastructure and jobs.
Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried Slams Ron DeSantis for Coddling Insurrectionists
- It was Jan. 6, 2021, and a group of die-hard Republicans from Okaloosa County, Florida, had traveled 15 hours north to Washington, for a rally where President Donald Trump urged his followers to try to stop the certification of the election.
- After the rally, as a crowd marched toward the Capitol, some of the Florida contingent peeled off. But Sandra Atkinson – who had just been elected chair of the county’s Republican Party – kept marching.
- According to a USA TODAY review of multiple videos from the day and an interview with a close Republican Party associate, Atkinson proceeded to the Capitol and through the doors. The same kind of activity has led to criminal charges for many who stormed the Capitol Jan. 6 – charges for unlawful entry, picketing or other nonviolent acts.
- Two months later, Atkinson’s name emerged in bold type, in an announcement from DeSantis. She was being given a new job: The governor was appointing her to a statewide regulatory board.
- Giving a political appointment then to a Jan. 6 participant puts DeSantis’ core political dilemma in sharp focus now.
- The governor, who is expected to enter the race for the presidential nomination this week, said nothing during Atkinson’s appointment about her role in the insurrection, which was spurred by his main political rival: Trump. His office now declines to answer any questions about what DeSantis knew about Atkinson before her appointment or during her time as a regulator.
- Contacted by USA TODAY, Atkinson at first denied she had entered the Capitol. She then said she declined to comment. But to others, her role in Jan. 6 was no secret.
- Sherri Edwards Cox, who has long served with Atkinson on the Okaloosa County GOP committee, also marched in Washington, though she says she went back to her hotel rather than into the Capitol. Cox told USA TODAY Atkinson later bragged about going into the building, and claimed to have entered the office of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
- Atkinson’s apparent role in the insurrection does not appear to have interfered with her public role as an influential North Florida Republican. She was reelected chairwoman of the Okaloosa County GOP in December 2022. And she remained in the state oversight role DeSantis had given her for nearly a year.
- Even when she did finally depart the board, there was no public discussion of her activity on Jan. 6.
- Among the thousands of demonstrators marching for Trump Jan. 6, and the many of them who ultimately stormed the Capitol, it can be hard to isolate a specific face or name. But a collection of evidence points to Atkinson’s presence inside the building.
- Atkinson’s trip to Washington for the rally was also well-known. She was one of the chief organizers of the local caravan to Washington. (In March 2021, when a man from Okaloosa County was arrested for entering the Capitol, Atkinson distanced herself from him, saying she didn’t know him and that he didn’t travel with her group.)
- DeSantis’ office repeatedly declined to answer questions from USA TODAY about what it knew about Atkinson, why he appointed her, and why she later left the board.
Attorney General Moody Highlights Support Resources for LEOs During National Police Week and Mental Health Awareness Month
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—In recognition of National Police Week and Mental Health Awareness Month, Attorney General Ashley Moody is highlighting available resources for Florida law enforcement officers. Statistics show, in previous years, that law enforcement officers are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. According to BlueHelp.org, the national law enforcement suicide rate increased in 2022—however, Florida’s rate decreased. In an effort to further protect Florida’s officers, Attorney General Moody is encouraging any first responder struggling with mental health issues to seek help.
Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “We received some encouraging news this National Police Week and Mental Health Awareness Month. The suicide rate among Florida law enforcement officers declined last year. I want to thank all the mental health experts in Florida who focus efforts on helping our first responders who struggle with the mental health issues brought on because of their service to others. I also encourage anyone struggling to seek help. There are caring professionals available 24/7 who want to help.”
Crisis Center of Tampa Bay President & CEO Clara Reynolds said, “The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay would not be able to support the community to the extent that it does without partnering with local law enforcement agencies. We are so appreciative of their support of the victims of assault they bring to our door, the interventions they provide when someone is contemplating taking their life, and the numerous other ways they step in to keep us all safe. Thank you for choosing this very vital but difficult work each and every day.”
Law enforcement officers face challenging work daily that can take a serious toll on mental health. The Blue H.E.L.P. program seeks to bring awareness to suicide and mental health issues law enforcement officers face. The program, created by Karen Soloman and Jeffrey McGill, offers mental health education, advocates for law enforcement officers and their families and recognizes those lost to mental health causes.
Attorney General Moody wants all law enforcement officers struggling with mental health issues to know that help is available. There are caring people available 24/7 who understand the struggles and challenges that often accompany protecting the public from danger and violence.
The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is a nonprofit organization developed in 1972 to offer comprehensive services to people in the Tampa Bay community through collaboration and partnerships. With more than 10 different programs that offer a wide range of services and resources to all individuals, the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is determined to ensure no one in the Tampa Bay community has to face a crisis alone. To learn more, click here.
Since taking office, Attorney General Moody continues to take action to support Florida law enforcement officer mental health, including:
- Urging Congress to pass the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022: Last year, Attorney General Moody, joined by 52 other attorneys general, urged Congress to pass the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022. The legislation addresses gaps in support for public safety officers who suffer from PTSD associated with the high-risk nature of their jobs. To learn more, click here.
- Presented a Back the Blue Award to an Officer for Supporting Mental Health Awareness: Attorney General Moody presented a Back the Blue Award to a Tallahassee Police Department officer who co-wrote a book with information on mental health awareness and treatment strategies for first responders. Officer Sean Wyman co-authored Going Beyond the Call: Mental Health Fitness for Public Safety Professionals. The book focuses on social-emotional trauma, stress impacts and communication strategies to reduce the number of suicides within the public safety industry. To learn more, click here.
- Recognizing CCTB’s Law Enforcement Suicide Help Line: Attorney General Moody presented a Florida Cabinet resolution recognizing National Suicide Prevention Month in Florida in September 2019. Attorney General Moody then visited CCTB to recognize the then-pilot program called “First to Respond, Last to Ask For Help.” At the time, the program served officers in Hillsborough County with a help line to call for immediate, confidential support. Now, the help line is extended statewide—any officer in the state needing assistance can call 1(866) 4FL-HERO.
Law enforcement officers who are suffering and need help should immediately contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. Law enforcement officers wishing to speak to someone can also call the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay’s helpline at 1(866) 4FL-HERO to be connected to an individual for immediate and confidential support. To learn more about the help line, visit LastToAsk.com.
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