While traveling on Air Force One in January 2023 to visit the southern border, Joe Biden, positioned at the forefront of his briefing table, expressed intense anger.
Biden strongly criticized his team, consisting of then-Deputy Chief of Staff Jen O’Malley Dillon, Homeland Security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall, and other immigration authorities. Biden insisted on obtaining arcane immigration statistics and expressed frustration when his staff did not have them readily available.
The undisclosed gathering, narrated to Axios by three individuals knowledgeable about the incidents, exemplifies the Biden administration’s ongoing difficulties in managing the border situation over the past three years, characterized by internal conflicts, shifting of responsibility, and a lack of decisive action.
10/29. One of the insane scenes I saw on the border in Lukeville. BP occasionally had the illegal aliens march from the tent camp to the port of entry on a backroad when there were too many to transport. CC: @DustinStockton pic.twitter.com/Nf6qJIjTOX
— Just Jeff From Cali (@liberty_clarion) December 18, 2023
“Biden’s fury subsided, and aides scrambled for the information he wanted. People in the meeting later told others in frustration that his winding process and irritability were making it more difficult to reach decisions about the border,” the outlet reported.
The White House counters that the meeting was “productive.” Spokesperson Andrew Bates told Axios that “multiple firsthand participants of the meeting refute this description of the tone and outcome” of a conversation on “the specifics of this complex issue.”
From my time on the border near Lukeville, Arizona. The port of entry closed because so many illegal aliens were there. Mostly male illegal aliens from the African countries of Senegal and Guinea which are majority Islamic. Tensions were very high because people tried to cut in… pic.twitter.com/COoB6te6AE
— Just Jeff From Cali (@liberty_clarion) January 19, 2024
The rolling chaos along the border has grown to the point that Biden now is embracing immigration policies he ran against in 2020 — such as restricting asylum laws and suggesting he’ll “shut down” the border — as the crisis threatens his re-election.
Much of the current crisis is rooted in factors Biden’s team has had little control over — including unprecedented global calamities that have pushed millions of migrants to the U.S., decades of congressional inaction, and the state of key agencies after the Trump administration.
Numerous present and past Biden officials assert that they have exerted their utmost efforts, taking into account the prevailing circumstances. However, according to several individuals interviewed by Axios, they believe that the administration has not met expectations in areas that are under its direct influence.
Africans from the Islamic nation of Senegal being filed into the Lukeville port of entry after rushing through a cut in the border wall. From my 7 weeks camped in Lukeville filming the crisis. #BetOnBiden for more of this. #BorderCrisis #TrumpRally #Trump2024 pic.twitter.com/PPhXxw9w76
— Just Jeff From Cali (@liberty_clarion) February 11, 2024
“The crisis grew slowly. Many administration leaders treated the issue like a hot potato because it was politically thankless, several sources in and out of government,” according to Axios.
The idea that no one wanted to “own it” came up repeatedly in interviews about the border crisis. But the problem required a robust and coordinated response at several levels of the federal government.
As the humanitarian conditions at the border have deteriorated and the politics surrounding immigration have become a thorn for Biden, he becomes scratchier when the issue comes up, according to current and former aides.
A woman with the NGO Samaritanos Sin Fronteras talks to illegal aliens from all over the world in Lukeville, Arizona. She was with a guy from the NGO Humane Borders who was filling water tanks. Blue flags at the water stations lead illegal aliens to BP pick-up spots. The water… pic.twitter.com/PIGjFydkEI
— Just Jeff From Cali (@liberty_clarion) January 30, 2024
“There are definite incentives … to not be the person who owns the scary issue with no solutions,” a former government official close to the issue told Axios.
“If you’re the person briefing the president, you get to piss him off every day.”
The government led by Joe Biden at the start of 2021 was taken aback by the swift increase in the number of minors and adolescents unlawfully crossing the border.
800 illegal aliens from Islamic-majority African nations, the Middle East and India, marching from the Border Patrol tent facility to the Lukeville port of entry. Next ones to ambush American cops? Never know. From my 7 weeks camped in Lukeville. #border #BorderCrisis #BorderBill… pic.twitter.com/aDMzJvaOdS
— Just Jeff From Cali (@liberty_clarion) January 31, 2024
The presence of photographs of women and children densely packed within Border Patrol tents has prompted opponents to draw parallels between President Biden’s border policy and the previous “kids in cages” criticisms directed at former President Trump. “It was a panic,” one former Biden official remarked.
Internal conflict erupted among members of Biden’s staff.
Susan Rice, the Domestic Policy Advisor, had a crucial role in coordinating the administration’s strategy to the border, which generated both praise and criticism.
500 illegal aliens from Islamic African nations, the M.E., and others breached the border wall by the Lukeville port of entry the night it closed & hundreds rushed through the unmanned port. BP agent rolled up and started yelling at them. I was sleeping in my Jeep at the port.… pic.twitter.com/fQ8oXCb2SM
— Just Jeff From Cali (@liberty_clarion) February 1, 2024
Several authorities perceived her as unnecessarily confrontational and held divergent views on her policy positions. However, even numerous individuals who oppose her acknowledge that she has assumed greater accountability for border-related matters, while many other prominent officials in the Biden administration have been avoiding such responsibilities.
Axios reports that Rice was basically at war with some in the administration, including VP Kamala Harris:
There was — and still is — deep animosity toward Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra for what was seen as his reluctance to find more space in child migrant shelters, which are overseen by HHS, according to several sources familiar with the dynamics.
Rice referred to Becerra as a “bitch-ass” and privately called him an “idiot,” according to multiple sources.
During one meeting when Biden was tearing into Becerra, Rice passed Mayorkas a note that read: “Don’t save him,” according to two people familiar with the meeting.
“The Trump administration severely restricted [the Office of Refugee Resettlement] capacity to serve children referred to our care,” HHS spokesperson Jeff Nesbit told Axios in a statement.
“We worked quickly, but under any circumstances you can’t stand up licensed child-care beds overnight, much less in the middle of a pandemic.”
Rice also clashed repeatedly with Sherwood-Randall and had tension with Vice President Harris, according to people familiar with the dynamics.
The tension between Rice and Harris had origins in the summer of 2020, when both were being vetted for vice president. Rice later told people she thought Harris and her team were partly responsible for opposition research that resulted in negative coverage of Rice.
Rice appeared to others to take pride in being more informed on the border than Harris.
Some Harris aides found Rice to be disrespectful toward the vice president and dismissively referred to the former UN ambassador as just a “staffer.”
Rice declined interview requests. A spokesperson said she “categorically denies” the reporting about her relationship with Becerra and Harris.
Carmel Martin, a policy adviser to Rice and then Harris before leaving last year, disputed that there was tension: “As a former senior staff member for both Vice President Harris and Ambassador Rice, I know firsthand that they and their teams worked hand in hand to address the complex issues of migration.”
Since Rice left her position last year, the new head of the Domestic Policy Council — Neera Tanden — has been less engaged on the border.
Read the full article here.