By Jack Fink

WASHINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – President Joe Biden rejected Republican criticism that he and his policies are attracting a rising number of migrants to illegally cross into the U.S. “The reason they’re coming is it’s the time they can travel with the least likelihood of dying on the way because of the heat in the desert.”

But during his first news conference, the president said he won’t ignore the thousands of unaccompanied minors who arrive here. “The idea I’m going to say, which I would never do, if an unaccompanied child ends up at the border, we’re just going to let him starve to death and stay on the other side.”

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The president was also asked about photos of the Border Patrol’s facility in Donna, Texas showing overcrowded and cramped conditions for the unaccompanied minors before they’re transferred to other federal facilities that are more accommodating to the mostly teenage boys. “That is totally unacceptable.”

That is why he said his administration is expanding the number of beds for the teens as quickly as possible.

The Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, which is operating the federal government’s facilities, announced there are more than 14,200 beds for the unaccompanied minors at facilities here in Texas.

That includes the 2,300 beds at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.

There are an additional 1,400 unaccompanied minors at the San Diego Convention Center, which brings a total capacity for more than 15,600 youngsters.

Some reports estimate a record 17,000 unaccompanied minors may be apprehended in the U.S. this month alone.

On Thursday, Sen. John Cornyn said the problem is only going to get worse. “If the administration thinks they have this under control, they’re sadly mistaken.”

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Biden blamed former President Donald Trump for the situation. “He dismantled all of the elements that exist to deal with what had been a problem.”

Cornyn disagreed and blamed the Biden administration. “There were consequences associated with illegal immigration under the previous administration, but when those policies were reversed, it looks like it was an open-door policy.”

During the news conference, the president was asked whether a 9-year-old boy who came to the U.S. by himself from Honduras should be able to stay in the country. “The judgment has to be made whether or not, in this young man’s case, he has a mom at home, there’s an overwhelming reason why he’d be put on a plane home back to his mom.”

The president said most of the adult migrants apprehended by U.S. authorities are returned to their home countries.

Cornyn said he’s working with Democrats, including congressman Henry Cuellar of South Texas and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, on a bill to reform the asylum process. “Move the judges to the border and we need to move the children in particular to the head of the line so they can have their court hearing while they’re being detained there.”

Cornyn said he’s concerned the ongoing situation at the border will make it more difficult for lawmakers to achieve immigration reform.

On Friday, he and Sen. Ted Cruz will take 17 other Republican senators on a tour in Mission, Texas, so they can see first-hand what Border Patrol agents and the Texas Department of Public Safety are experiencing.

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No word yet if Cornyn and Cruz invited Democratic senators to join them.