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White House says Biden drove by the border in 2008

<i>Heather Fulbright/CNN</i><br/>
Heather Fulbright/CNN
Heather Fulbright/CNN

By Betsy Klein, CNN

President Joe Biden drove by the US-Mexico border more than a decade ago, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday — one day after the President said he knows the border “well.”

“He did drive through the border when he was on the campaign trail in 2008. And he is certainly familiar with the fact — and it stuck with him — with the fact that in El Paso, the border goes right through the center of town,” Psaki said.

The President’s absence from that part of the country comes as his administration is facing record numbers of migrants and border-related issues, and as the situation has drastically changed since his last trip in 2008. He has faced repeated calls from Republicans to visit the border and his administration has been questioned frequently by reporters about when he plans to go.

Biden told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Thursday that he hasn’t had a lot of time to get down to the US-Mexico border, arguing that he’s been traveling around the world and visiting domestic disaster sites instead.

“I’ve been there before … I mean, I know it well,” he told Cooper during CNN’s Town Hall.

Biden added, “I guess I should go down but the whole point of it is, I haven’t had a whole hell of a lot of time to get down.”

Though Biden mentioned foreign travel as one of the reasons he has not gone to the border as President to date, he has made only one trip abroad during the first nine months of his pandemic-era term — a June trip to Europe. He is scheduled for another Europe trip next weekend for a G20 summit and United Nations climate conference.

During Friday’s press briefing, Psaki said regardless of whether he has visited the border, the President understands the issue.

“What the most important thing everyone should know and understand is that the President has worked on these issues throughout his entire career, and is well-versed in every aspect of our immigration system, including the border,” Psaki said. “That includes when he was vice president, and he went to Mexico and Central America 10 times to address border issues and talk about what we can do to reduce the number of migrants who were coming to the border.”

Biden, she said, “does not need a visit to the border to know what a mess was left by the last administration.”

Psaki also argued that going to the border is simply a “photo op.”

“There is a focus right now on a photo op. The President does not believe a photo op is the same as solutions,” she said.

And asked whether anything has changed at the border since his visit in 2008, Psaki remarked, “Aside from the fact that migrants are still coming to the border through the course of Democratic and Republican presidents and the need to reform the immigration system is even farther long overdue? No, but we need to work with Democrats and Republicans to get that done.”

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