By Lucia Leal
Washington, Mar 25 (efe-epa).- President Joe Biden on Thursday defended his immigration policy amid the arrival of thousands of undocumented minors along the southern border, adding that he intends to run for reelection in 2024, when he will be 81 years old.
During the first press conference of his presidency, Biden also doubled the Covid-19 vaccination target for the first 100 days of his term to 200 million doses nationwide, up from the 100 million he had initially promised and which has already been achieved.
“I know it’s ambitious, twice our original goal, but no other country has even come close,” the president said.
This was almost the only mention the president made of the pandemic during the hour-long press conference, in which reporters asked him no questions about the global health crisis, which has killed more than 545,000 people in the United States.
The 10 reporters who were present did, however, focus on the immigration crisis as well as Biden’s relationship with China, North Korea and the US Congress.
The president said he could not guarantee that he would be able to resolve everything but he said that things would certainly be better, regarding the ongoing exodus of tens of thousands of undocumented migrants, most of them coming from Central America.
He said that “nothing has changed” vis-a-vis the migration policy pursued by the Republican administration of Donald Trump, despite the fact that many of the undocumented minors and families are making the northward journey hoping that the new US Democratic administration will allow them to remain here.
Biden said that he cannot do much more than reiterate the fact that the border is closed to undocumented migrants, except – he said – to minors and some families, who the administration is not deporting immediately and who have saturated the US detention centers.
“It happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border” during the winter months, he said.
Biden also generated headlines when asked if he intends to run for reelection in 2024, an issue about which he had avoided making a clear statement until now, amid rumors that he would clear the way for his vice president, Kamala Harris, because of his already advanced age.
“My plan is to run for reelection,” Biden said, adding “That is my expectation,” although he then said that “I’ve never been able to plan three-and-a-half, four years ahead, for certain.”
Biden added that he “fully expects” Harris to be his running mate again, but he seemed irritated over the question about whether he thinks that he would have to face off against Trump again.
“I have no idea,” he said. “I have no idea if there will be a Republican Party.”
Biden left the door open to ending the filibuster, a maneuver that allows the minority party in the Senate, now the Republicans, to block votes on bills by requiring a vote of 60 to be able to bring them to a vote in the first place.
Many Democratic lawmakers argue that, if this mechanism is not thrown out, Biden will not be able to accomplish many of his more progressive campaign promises, including immigration reform, the fight against climate change and strengthening gun control.
In the international sphere, Biden said that he is prepared for some type of diplomacy with North Korea, but he conditioned it on the fact that the final objective must be the “denuclearization” of the Pyongyang regime and – after the recent missile tests by Kim Jong-un’s government – said that if North Korea escalates the situation, the US will respond.
Biden also admitted that the US is in tough competition with Beijing, saying that China’s main objective is to become the richest and most powerful nation on earth but declaring that this will not occur during his presidency and adding that President Xi Jinping does not have a “democratic bone in his body.”
The president also admitted that he is not going to be able to fulfill his commitment to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan before May.
He declared that the US would leave, but said “The question is when,” adding that he did not believe that next year any US troops would remain in the Central Asian country, where they have been fighting since 2001.