Washington: US President Joe Biden on Thursday said the “Xenophobic” nature of India, China, Japan and Russia is responsible for their economic troubles and argued that America’s economy is growing because it welcomes immigrants to its soil.

The President made the statement while campaigning for his re-election at Washington fundraising event and argued that Japan, along with Russia and China, would perform better economically if the countries embraced immigration more.

“You know, one of the reasons why our economy is growing is because of you and many others. Why? Because we welcome immigrants. We look to — the reason — look, think about it. Why is China stalling so badly economically? Why is Japan having trouble? Why is Russia? Why is India? Because they’re xenophobic. They don’t want immigrants,” Biden said.

“Immigrants is what makes us strong. Not a joke. That’s not hyperbole. Because we have an influx of workers who want to be here and just contribute,” he added.

Immigration is a polarizing issue in US politics, and will almost certainly play a major role in the November presidential election. Illegal border crossings have contributed to an average 2 million influx per year since 2021, the highest level ever.

Polls show broad public disapproval of how President Biden has handled the surge, and former president Donald Trump, who also faced criticism for his immigration policies, is running for office on promises to crack down and deport millions of people.

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Trump’s opposition to senators’ recently failed USD 118 billion bipartisan border bill, tying border reforms to Ukraine aid, influenced many Republican legislators to reject it. It also dealt a potentially fatal blow to the possibility of new laws and tools that could reduce illegal crossings and ease strains on cities with overwhelmed shelters, The Washington Post reported.

Illegal border crossings soared in the months after Biden took office and immediately rolled back many Trump-era restrictions. Biden warned that he’d still enforce immigration laws, and he temporarily kept in place a Trump pandemic policy known as Title 42 that allowed authorities to quickly expel border crossers.

The number of people taken into custody by the US Border Patrol has reached the highest levels in the agency’s 100-year history under Biden, averaging 2 million per year.

The Washington Post reported that during the president’s first days in office, his administration announced it would not use the Title 42 policy to turn back unaccompanied minors who arrive without a parent or guardian. Their numbers began to shoot up almost immediately, and images of migrant children and teens packed shoulder-to-shoulder in detention facilities produced the administration’s first border emergency. Soon after, Biden assigned Vice President Harris to lead a new effort to address the “root causes” of Central American emigration.

Migrants from Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Senegal and Mauritania — along with other nations in Africa, Europe and Asia — are crossing from Mexico in numbers US authorities have never seen. For example, 14,965 migrants from China arrived across the southern border between October and December, Border Patrol data shows, up from 29 over that same period in 2020. The Border Patrol encountered 9,518 migrants from India during that same three-month span, compared to 56 during that period in 2020.

(With Agency Inputs)