‘Nice guy’ Biden defends US border chaos
US President Joe Biden admitted that his "nice guy" image was driving a record number of illegal crossings of America's southern border in his first press conference since taking office.
"I guess I should be flattered people are coming because I'm a nice guy, that's the reason why it's happening, that I am a decent man," Mr Biden said.
"That's why they're coming because they know Biden's a good guy."
Mr Biden is under fire over a 20-year high levels of illegal border crossings after rolling back several of Donald Trump's harsh immigration policies since his January inauguration.
But Mr Biden said he wasn't wholly responsible for the worsening southern border crisis, defending the surge as seasonal and blaming his predecessor for having "dismantled" border facilities.
"Does anybody suggest there was a 31 per cent increase under Trump because he was a nice guy and he was doing good things at the border?" he said.
"That's not the reason they are coming. The reason they are coming is that it's the time they can travel with the least likelihood of dying on the way because of the heat and the desert, number one. Number two, they are coming because of the circumstances in-country.
"The truth of the matter is, nothing has changed.
"There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months.. it happens every year."
Despite the usual seasonal surge, 2021 is currently on track to exceed the previous recent high set in 2019 in terms of border apprehensions.
More than 100,000 people were arrested last month, which is 24,000 more than in February of 2019, according to CNN.
However the number of unaccompanied children, 11,000 from February 28 to March 20, is set to exceed the previous high of May 2019 when there were 11,400 arrests.
There are currently 5000 children in custody and overwhelmed border patrol agents are reportedly letting migrants cross without any documentation.
Earlier, Mr Biden said his administration was on track to give coronavirus vaccinations to 200 million Americans in his first 100 days.
"I know it's ambitious, twice our initial goal but no other country has even come close and I believe we can do it," Mr Biden said.
Mr Biden was holding his first press conference since taking office after having waited an historically long 64 days to take questions from the media.
This was the longest period in 100 years that a new president waited to hold a full press conference, overtaking his 15 predecessors who had each done so within 33 days of their inauguration.
Speaking from the East Room in the White House, Mr Biden was also grilled on increased aggression from China and North Korea as well as gun reform as the country reels from a spate of new mass shootings.
Mr Biden also confirmed that US troops were unlikely to meet the May deadline set by the administration to withdraw from Afghanistan but that it wouldn't be until next year.
"We will leave, the question is when we leave," he said.
Mr Biden defended training his entire early focus on COVID, describing immigration and gun control as "long term problems" that he would "begin one at a time to focus on".
"When I took office I decided that it was a fairly basic simple proposition and that is I got elected to solve problems and the most urgent problem facing the American people… was COVID 19 and the economic dislocation for millions and millions of Americans," he said.
Also at question was how Mr Biden plans to fund a AUD$4 trillion (US$3 trillion) infrastructure and climate reform package after his campaign promises that no American making less than $528,000 (US$400,000) a year would see a tax hike.
Originally published as 'Nice guy' Biden defends US border chaos