Obama: Plight of Haitian Migrants 'Heartbreaking' Former President Barack Obama speaks on Oct. 21, 2020, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
By Jeffrey Rodack | Tuesday, 28 September 2021 11:02 AM
Former President Barack Obama called the migrant crisis at the southern border in Del Rio, Texas, "heartbreaking."
In an interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts, co-anchor of "Good Morning America," Obama said a comprehensive immigration reform is needed to repair "a system that, overall, is dysfunctional.
"It's no secret that we don't have that," he said. "It's the reason I proposed comprehensive immigration reform. It's the reason Joe Biden proposed it during his administration, and it's something that is long overdue."
Obama maintained there is "more work to do."
"As big-hearted as he is, nobody understands that better than Joe Biden," Obama said. "And the question is now: Are we gonna get serious about dealing with this problem in a systemic way, as opposed to these one-offs where we're constantly reacting to emergencies? And I think that that's something that every American should wanna put an end to."
ABC News noted Biden is even facing criticism from Democrats over his handling of the migrant surge in Del Rio.
"Despite the administration's rapid deployment of personnel and resources in response to this crisis, much of the strategy to address the care of these vulnerable individuals is deeply concerning," Democrat Reps. Bennie Thompson and Gregory Meeks said in a statement. "Specifically, we urge the administration to halt repatriations to Haiti until the country recovers from these devastating crises."
The crisis in Del Rio prompted the Biden administration to expel thousands of the migrants, mostly Haitians, without giving them an opportunity to apply for asylum in the U.S.
About 4,000 people have been returned to Haiti, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on CNN on Sunday.
Obama noted: "Immigration is tough. It always has been because, on the one hand, I think we are naturally a people that wants to help others. And we see tragedy and hardship and families that are desperately trying to get here so that their kids are safe, and they're in some cases fleeing violence or catastrophe," Obama said. "At the same time, we're a nation state. We have borders. The idea that we can just have open borders is something that … as a practical matter, is unsustainable."
Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano said Friday the site where thousands of Haitian migrants camped in recent days says is now empty.
Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump criticized Biden on Monday and said another 20,000 Haitians were staged in Colombia preparing to make their trek to the U.S.-Mexico border the "laughingstock of the globe."
"Just eight months ago, the whole world knew that if you illegally violated America’s borders, no matter where you came from, you’d be immediately caught, promptly detained, and swiftly removed — perfect precision clockwork," Trump said in a memo issued through his Save America PAC.