President Biden said Monday that his administration is committed to improving the border crisis by trying to "figure out" why migrants are leaving their home countries for the U.S. in the first place.
"I think one of the fundamental things we've got to do in addition to some of the changes we'll make, which we won’t get into it today, is that if we figure out why they're leaving in the first place," the president continued. "It's not like people sit around and say, in Guadalajara, ‘I got a great idea, let's sell everything we have, give it to a coyote, take us across the border, leave us in the desert in a country doesn't want us. We don't speak the language. Won't that be fun?’
"You know, there are gangs we're working on, there's a whole lot of illegal movement, but there's also a way to begin to deal with the reason they're leaving in the first place," he added.
Biden’s comments came after Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican and chairman of the NGA, asked the president to explain what the administration is doing to help remedy the influx of migrants over the southern border.
"I had the opportunity to serve in the Bush administration and on border security, so I know how tough it is. I know how difficult it is," Hutchinson said. "Some of the governors have actually sent our National Guard resources, you know, to the border to assist at state expense. So we'd welcome your comments as to how you're meeting this challenge and the plans for the future in that regard."
Harris, who was appointed by Biden last March to handle the border crisis, did not mention her efforts surrounding immigration during her remarks at the NGA meeting.
The Biden administration in July rolled out its strategies to address the "root causes" of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The Root Causes Strategy unveiled on July 29 is broken down into five pillars: addressing economic insecurity and inequality; combating corruption, strengthening democratic governance and advancing the rule of law; promoting respect for human rights, labor rights and a free press; countering and preventing violence, extortio, and other crimes perpetrated by criminal gangs, trafficking networks and other organized criminal organizations; and combating sexual, gender-based and domestic violence.
Meanwhile, migrant encounters at the southern border increased again in December from the prior month, according to data provided to a federal court by the Biden administration – the latest sign that the crisis at the border is likely to continue into 2022.
According to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data provided in the Jan 14 filing, there were 178,840 migrant encounters in December, up from 173,620 in November. That in turn was an increase from the 164,753 apprehensions in October.
Those numbers are drastically higher than the previous year, when there were 72,113 encounters in November and 73,994 in December.
Fox News' Adam Shaw and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.