Alex Padilla Says Economic Boost In Other Countries Will Help Reduce Border Influx

Watch the full interview on ASP.

One long-term plan to help reduce the influx of people attempting to enter the United States illegally would be for the United States to help create economic opportunities in other countries, according to California Senator Alex Padilla.

The United States is seeing a significant increase in the number of children in border custody and Republicans are using the surge as evidence of President Joe Biden's failed immigration stance. Biden dismissed the surge as being something new, and Democrats point to the influx as showing a clear need for immigration reform.

Padilla told actors Chris Evans and Mark Kassen, the co-founders of civic media organization A Starting Point, that people are coming to the United States border because they're fleeing violence, fear of their lives and a lack of economic opportunities.

"If the U.S. can be a partner, as we have throughout the course of our history, with other countries to further develop and create economic opportunity [in migrants' home countries] that's going to relieve the draw if you will of people feeling like they have no other opportunity where they are and that their only hope is to come to the United States," Padilla said.

The California senator, who was appointed to fill the seat left vacant by Vice President Kamala Harris, acknowledged that helping improve economic conditions in other countries is a "bigger picture, longer-term challenge" for the United States.

alex padilla border us economic opportunities
Senator Alex Padilla told actor Chris Evans the U.S. helping to create economic opportunity in other countries could help reduce the surge at the border. Padilla asks a question during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs/Rules and Administration hearing to examine the January 6 attack on the US Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on March 3. Shawn Thew/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. authorities encountered more than 100,000 migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in February, according to CNN, the highest levels for the same time frame in five years. The number of unaccompanied migrant children in border custody reached its highest point on Sunday since the federal government started releasing data last week, according to CNN, and 5,767 children were in custody.

Republicans argue that migrants are coming to the United States because Biden's in office, but he attributes the surge to favorable weather conditions, not that he's a "nice guy." At a press conference, he said now is the time of year they can travel with the least likelihood of dying from the heat in the desert.

Border arrivals typically rise in the spring but have been on the uptick the past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on economies around the world.

Padilla wouldn't label the influx of migrants at the border a "crisis" yet and agreed with Biden that what's happening isn't unusual. He told Evans and Kassen some years there's a "little bit" of an uptick at this time of year and some years there's a greater increase.

Along with reversing some of former President Donald Trump's policies, Padilla said the Biden administration should increase capacity for processing asylum seekers. Part of the driving force of the increase in unaccompanied children in border control, according to Padilla, is the lag time in processing their cases.

Biden must also address America's process for people seeking asylum here and those who wish to become citizens, Padilla said.

"In my opinion, comprehensive reform is long overdue," the California senator told Evans and Kassen. "While we're seeking to address the situation at the border at the present time, what I'm hoping for is that it doesn't serve as too much of a distraction of the more comprehensive immigration policies that need to be updated in the United States."