"I'm working on it, man," he told them

By Virginia Chamlee
April 30, 2021 05:21 PM
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Joe Biden Georgia rally
Joe Biden at a Georgia rally
| Credit: Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock

On Thursday, President Joe Biden responded to protesters — who could be heard chanting "end detention now," "communities not cages" and "abolish ICE" — during a speech in Georgia, telling the hecklers he was "working on" ending private prisons.

"I agree with you, I'm working on it man. Give me another five days," Biden, 78, told the protestors.

"Folks, y'all know what they're talking about. There should be no private prisons, period," Biden continued. "None, period ... They should not exist and we are working to close all of them."

Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller tweeted an image of the protesters being escorted out of the venue by staff.

Shortly after taking office, Biden signed an executive order mandating that the Department of Justice not renew contracts with privately-operated, for-profit prisons.

In remarks to reporters before signing the order — which activists have said is much more symbolic than practical — the president said: "We must change now. I know it's going to take time, but I know we can do it. And I firmly believe the nation is ready to change. But government has to change as well."

While Biden seemed to think the chants from the Thursday rally were in reference to prisons, the protestors instead seemed to be calling attention to the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, where agents have encountered more than 100,000 migrants in recent months.

According to the AP, the number of migrants at the southern border has eclipsed previous highs in 2019 and 2014, during the Trump and Obama administrations.

Upon taking office, Biden reversed part of a Trump-era policy under COVID-19 precautionary powers that required nearly all migrants to be immediately expelled after crossing the border illegally.

Currently, while most are still expelled, children (as well as some migrant families, because of changes in Mexico) are being allowed to stay while their cases are processed.

That change along with seasonal changes in migration patterns and a belief that the Biden administration is a more welcoming one than the Trump administration, despite many continuing restrictions, has led to a dramatic influx in unaccompanied minors at the border.

The administration has acknowledged the problem publicly and asked FEMA, the government's emergency relief agency, to help. (FEMA will be stepping in to help transfer unaccompanied minors from overcrowded facilities to temporary shelters.)

Biden was in Georgia on Thursday for a drive-in rally in the Atlanta area to mark his 100 days in office.

Ahead of the rally, he and his wife, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, paid a visit to the home of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.

Speaking to reporters as he and his wife headed home, President Biden said: "It was great to see President Carter. He reminded me that I was the first person to endorse him outside of Georgia. And we sat and talked about the old days."

Biden added that Carter — who has has suffered multiple health challenges in recent years, including several falls and a 2019 surgery for bleeding in his brain — seemed healthy.

"His health has gotten better," Biden said. "He's really, it's amazing, he keeps bouncing back."