Biden's first 100 days live updates: Biden faces growing immigration crisis

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

By MICHELLE STODDART, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Monday is Day 41 of the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Here is how the day is unfolding. All time Eastern:

Mar 01, 3:44 pm

Senators urge Biden administration to prioritize first dose for variants

Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. wrote a letter Monday urging the Biden administration COVID response team to consider a new vaccine strategy that would prioritize first doses as the threat from variants, particularly the U.K. variant, increases.

The pair of Democratic lawmakers wrote to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients, "we encourage you to explore deploying existing second doses as first doses and rely on growing real-time inventory to cover future follow-on booster shots."

"We are not advocating for solely a single-dose regimen," the letter said. "Rather, we believe deploying existing second doses to cover more first doses—coupled with using real-time inventory in the coming weeks to serve as boost doses—would be the most societally beneficial choice and mitigate severe illness, hospitalization, and death.”

-ABC News' Trish Turner

Mar 01, 1:36 pm

Senate advances Merrrick Garland's AG nomination

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday afternoon advanced the nomination of Merrick Garland to be the nation’s next attorney general in a bipartisan vote. On a vote of 15-7, three Republicans, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R- N.C., John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., joined committee Democrats to favorably advance the nomination to the floor. Garland is expected to be confirmed by week’s end.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, called Garland "an honorable man" in announcing his support for the nominee, but he expressed "concerns about the direction of the Department of Justice."

In the previous administration, Democrats repeatedly accused former Attorney General Bill Barr of being a partisan lawyer bent on protecting his boss, President Donald Trump, rather than enforcing the nation’s laws. Republicans, for their part, now see the potential for the Biden Justice Department becoming partisan, repeatedly voicing concerns that special counsel John Durham, appointed during the Trump administration, will not be permitted to finish his investigation into the origins of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"I don't have any information about the investigation. As I sit here today and another one of the very first things I'm going to have to do to speak with Mister Durham and speak about how his investigation is going. I understand he has been permitted to remain in his position, and sitting here today, I have no reason to think that that was not the correct decision," Garland said last week. "I don't have any reason to think that he should not remain in place."

Grassley said he was putting Garland "on notice" that "any actions taken to end and cover up or otherwise undermine the Durham investigation should be interpreted as premeditated and political if Durham is sidelined."

"His career of faithful public service that I think means I owe him a chance to just do exactly what he said, but he has his work cut out for him," Grassley said of Garland’s promise to "follow the law, nothing more and nothing less."

It was an abrupt turn of fate, given that Republicans, including Graham, Grassley, and Cornyn, sunk Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court under former President Barack Obama.

Mar 01, 1:33 pm

Biden to participate in virtual meeting with senators including Manchin

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is one of nine senators participating in a virtual meeting with Biden early Monday afternoon. Manchin, a moderate Democrat, has become a powerful vote in the 50-50 split Senate.

In the president's big push for the Senate to pass his COVID-19 relief bill, Manchin's support is vital to winning passage. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have already been publicly critical of the administration's push to add a $15 minimum wage increase to the bill.

Mar 01, 12:54 pm

Mayorkas defends administration's handling of child migrants

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas also discussed the administration's policy on unaccompanied minors in the immigration system on Monday the White House press briefing, a topic for which the Biden administration has come under much fire.

Mayorkas stressed that minors were only temporarily in the system before being placed with sponsors or going into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services. He stressed that the Biden administration would handle child migrants differently from the Trump administration when pressed by reporters.

"Well, actually, the Trump administration expelled children to Mexico, and we are not expelling young children. We are not apprehending a nine-year-old child who's come alone, who has traversed Mexico, whose loving parents had sent that child alone. We're not expelling that nine-year-old child to Mexico when that child's country of origin was Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador," Mayorkas said. "We are actually bringing that child into a Border Patrol station, as a stepping point to get that child in the hands of HHS that has the capacity and the unique talents to care for the child."

"We are taking a look at where efficiencies can be achieved in the best interest of the child," Psaki said. "It is the best interest of the child that really define our actions."

He also discussed the work of the Child Reunification Task Force, an effort spearheaded by first lady Jill Biden, to try to get children reunited with families. Mayorkas boasted that 105 families have been reunited through the effort.

Mar 01, 12:44 pm

Mayorkas says immigration system was 'gutted' by Trump administration

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas joined the White House press briefing Monday to discuss the Biden administration's immigration process.

Mayorkas began by shifting blame onto former President Donald Trump's policies, saying that since taking office, he has been working to undo the work of the past administration.

"Let me explain to you why it is hard and why it is going to take time. I think it is important to understand what we have inherited, because it defines the situation as it currently stands. Entire systems are not re-built in a day or in a few weeks," Mayorkas said. "To put it succinctly, the prior administration dismantled our nation's immigration system in its entirety."

Mayorkas emphasized that it would take time to "build out of the depths of the cruelty" of the Trump administration.

"When I started 27 days ago, I learned that we did not have the facilities available or equipped to administer the humanitarian laws that our Congress passed years ago. We did not have the personnel, policies, procedures or training to administer those laws," Mayorkas said. "Quite frankly, the entire system was gutted."

He also discussed the recent influx of migrants, saying that there has been a three-fold increase in crossings at the Southern border.

"I have to take this opportunity, at the same time, to reiterate a message that we have communicated repeatedly throughout which is a message to those individuals who are thinking of coming to our border: They need to wait," Mayorkas said. "It takes time to rebuild the system from scratch."

However, Mayorkas did not give a specific date about when the system will be able to handle more migrants when pressed by reporters.

Mar 01, 11:39 am

Lawmakers, advocacy groups urge Senate to pass $15 per hour minimum wage

Some of the lawmakers who signed onto a letter to Biden and Harris, asking them to overrule the Senate parliamentarian, urged the Senate to move forward with the $15 dollar minimum wage in a press call Monday morning.

"The idea that the impact on the budget of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is incidental is ridiculous, its not factually accurate, we should thank the parliamentarian for her advice, respect her completely, and make our own correct decisions to move forward with this," Rep. Mike Levine, D-Calif., said on the call.

The lawmakers highlighted the Senate's ability to disregard the decision, citing instances where it has occurred before and highlighting the increased urgency to raise the wage during the COVID-19 crisis.

"It's so important for the American people for us to not be gaslighted to believe that this is it, that we have no power," Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., said. "We’re going to get tremendous support who don’t see how it's done but see that it gets done."

Multiple organizations who are advocating for the $15 minimum wage were also on the call this morning backing the progressive effort. Advocates and lawmakers both said it was imperative to raise the minimum wage to address racial disparities.

"This isn’t just an economic need it is a racial justice imperative," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said. "Many people of color have been paid poverty pages for too long. One should not have to work to stay poor and that's what’s happening."

Mar 01, 11:38 am

Biden throws weight behind union efforts in Alabama

Biden released a video on Twitter Sunday night throwing his full support behind efforts for unions to organize, mentioning an effort by employees in Alabama, but not specifically mentioning Amazon, which is currently trying to campaign against workers’ efforts there.

"You should all remember, the National Labor Relations Act didn't just say that unions are allowed to exist. It said that we should encourage unions. So let me be really clear: It's not up to me to decide whether anyone should join a union. But let me be even more clear: It's not up to an employer to decide that either. The choice to join a union is up to the workers," Biden said. "Full stop."

Biden goes on to say "no supervisor should confront employees about their union preferences" and that every worker should have a "free and fair choice to join a union."

"It's your right. Not that of an employer. It's your right," Biden said. "No employer can take that right away."

His video message is being met with praise from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who tweeted this morning thanking the president for his message.

"If Amazon workers in Alabama -- a strong anti-union state -- vote to form a union, it'll be a shot heard around the world. If they can negotiate higher wages & better working conditions in the South, it'll benefit every worker in America," Sanders said in the tweet.

Mar 01, 10:04 am

Progressive Democrats urge Biden and Harris to try to keep $15 minimum wage

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and 22 other House progressives have sent a letter to Biden and Harris urging them to overrule the Senate parliamentarian and keep the $15 minimum wage in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

"We must act now to prevent tens of millions of hardworking Americans from being underpaid any longer," the letter said. "You have the authority to deliver a raise for millions of Americans."

Biden and his chief of staff Ron Klain have said they don’t want to overrule the top procedural official in the chamber. More important, they don’t have the votes to do so given that Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have said they oppose eliminating the legislative filibuster and Manchin also opposes the $15 minimum wage measure pushed by the House.

Mar 01, 9:21 am

Sanders drops effort to penalize corporations that don't pay $15 per hour

Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., are dropping a planned amendment to penalize corporations that don’t pay at least $15 per hour in an effort to raise the minimum wage for as many people as possible after the Senate parliamentarian ruled a straight wage increase out of bounds under reconciliation, two Democratic sources confirmed to ABC News.

One source close to Sanders said that he is determined to pass a wage increase and is "looking at all available strategies" to get it done. One of the sources told ABC that the progressives' "plan B is on hold."

"We worked through the weekend, and it became clear that finalizing ‘Plan B’ with the caucus would delay passage and risk going over the jobless benefits cliff," the source said.

There were many questions about how the Wyden-Sanders amendment would work -- some of the questions coming from Democrats. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., expressed concern Sunday that corporations might move jobs overseas in reaction to the penalty. Some economists questioned how the amendment would work with corporations that have franchises.

The $15 minimum wage increase has been a foundational issue for progressives in the new Congress.

Mar 01, 9:20 am

Biden to discuss immigration crisis with Mexican president

Biden travels from Wilmington, Delaware, where he spent the night, to the White House Monday morning. In the afternoon, the president meets virtually with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Biden will broach a variety of topics in his discussion with López Obrador including managing increasing migration flows, combating cross-border narcotics trafficking and addressing the ongoing health crisis, according to a senior administration official. This will be a follow up to the conversation between the two leaders on Jan. 22.

Included in the discussion of migration flow will likely be the reluctance in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas to accept families with young children. An administration official confirmed to ABC News that Mexican officials had rejected families with children under the age of 6, and as a result, they were then released into the interior of the U.S. The official described it as "creating a challenge" for the U.S. in managing migration flows.

The senior official underscored that the Trump-era protocols used to expel nearly everyone attempting to cross the border, known as Title 42, are temporary measures employed while immigration authorities work to build capacity for migrant processing in the U.S.

Broadly, the two leaders are expected to discuss avenues for continued cooperation and partnership on security, trade and migration.

The White House COVID-19 response team holds a briefing at 11 a.m. and White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a briefing at 12 p.m.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.