President Joe Biden held his first, much anticipated press conference on Thursday, speaking to reporters from the White House. Biden was late to the presser, which was scheduled to begin at 1:15. Reporters were called on based on a list that Biden had at the podium.
"I guess I should be flattered because people are coming because I'm a nice guy, that's why this is happening." He the pointed to other factors, saying that more children came during the previous administration than now, and that this always happens during the winter months.
He called on PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, who asked about immigration and mentioned that the perception of Biden was that he was a moral, decent leader. She said that the message to keep immigrants on the other side of the border is not getting across. She asked "how do you resolve that tension," and how they decide which families could stay.
"Does anybody suggest that there was a 31 percent increase under Trump because they were a nice guy? That's not the reason they're coming." Biden said that people are coming because the weather is nice, and there are problems in immigrants' home countries.
He said the plan is to pour money into Central American countries to stem the tide of people coming north, and went on to blame Trump. He said "the overwhelming majority of people coming to the border are being sent back."
"We're providing for the space again to get these kids out of the border control facilities which no child should be in for more than 72 hours," he said, noting that he has enlisted a military base to house immigrant children. Fort Bliss will provide 5,000 beds for these kids.
"I don't know how much detail you want about immigration" he said.
Alcindor asked about voting rights, and specifically Biden's willingness to kill the filibuster. Instead, Biden said Mexico is refusing to take people back.
As regards children, he said that "the vast majority of people under the age of 18 coming to the United States come with a telephone number" on their person. It was previously taking too long for people to call these numbers, but a new system, he said, has a "phone call made" to the number that people have.
Then they figure out who that person is who is being called.
Before taking the much anticipated questions from press, Biden spoke about his progress after his first 65 days in office. He touted his success with a vaccine rollout, began under the Trump administration, and doubled the vaccination goal to 200 million shots by April 23.
Biden spoke about his intention to invest another $10 billion into reaching "the most vulnerable communities" with the vaccines. As regards school reopenings, he said that nearly half of the K-8 schools are open full time. Many of these however were previously open. It is primarily those schools in major metropolitan cities that remain closed.
Biden praised his American Rescue Plan, as well, saying that since its passage there have been "new signs of hope in our economy." He said that nearly 100,000 people have fallen off the unemployment rolls, but said there were still too many Americans out of work.
The focus on the conference was to take questions from press. He called specifically on reporters by name. First up was the Associated Press, who asked a question about a broad swath of his policies that are facing opposition by the GOP. "How far are you willing to go," to get these policies across? He was asked.
Biden barely answered the question, saying that the most urgent problem he had to face was COVID and the economy, and said that's why he focused so hard on his major spending plan. Immigration and gun control, he said, are long term problems, that he's planning to focus on, as well "as a number of other problems." But the main thing, he said, was getting Americans "peace of mind" so they could sleep well at night.
Biden said the GOP was going to "continue the politics of division," but that he was going to "take things as they come." The AP asked about the four major crises that he used in his campaign, and said that the success of those efforts would be "for the American people to decide."
"I've been hired to solve problems, not to create division."
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