Joe Biden discusses his Irish ancestry
Immigration was the pressing theme of Mr Biden’s first televised press conference since he was sworn in as US President in January. An increase in migrants at the southern US border, and an already backlogged demand for asylum, are testing his promises on tackling the issue. The administration is struggling to manage thousands of migrants, including children, as the number detained at the US border is on track to hit 130,000 in March, up from 100,000 in February.
Responding to questions on the matter, Mr Biden compared his ancestor’s journey to the US to those crossing the southern border today.
He said: “When my great-grandfather got on a coffin ship in the Irish Sea, the expectation was he was going to live long enough to get to the USA.
“They left because of what the Brits had been doing.
“They were in real, real trouble. They didn’t want to leave but they had no choice.
Joe Biden held his first televised press conference yesterday
Mr Biden spoke about his Irish heritage
“I can’t guarantee we’re going to solve everything, but I can guarantee we can make everything better.”
Mr Biden has long stressed his Irish roots and frequently questioned Britain’s approach to the Brexit deal’s Northern Ireland protocol.
But the Democratic leader appears to have shied away from discussing his English heritage.
Of Joe Biden’s 16 great-great-grandparents, 10 were born in Ireland, but one was born in England.
According to historian Eddy Greenfield, William Biden was born in Sussex and emigrated to the US around 1822, where he settled in Maryland.
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William was the second child and son of James Biden and Ann Silverlock, who had married on May 16, 1785 and were from Pagham.
Experts note that a possible connection may also exist to the family of a William Henry Biden, who was from Houghton, Cambridgeshire, and lived from 1791 to 1843.
William was the son of John Biden and his wife Ann Beaumont, who had married in 1781.
He and his older brother, Christopher Biden are said to have served as officers in the East India Company merchant marine, both eventually becoming captains of East Indiamen.
Originally chartered as the “Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East-Indies,” the company rose to account for half of the world’s trade during the 18th-century, particularly in basic commodities including cotton, silk, tea and spices.
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The company also ruled in the beginnings of the British Empire in India in 1858.
In 1981, Christopher’s reported great-great-grandson, Leslie Dunn Biden – then living in Nagpur – wrote to Joe Biden about the possible family connection after reading about him in ‘Illustrated Weekly of India’.
He received a response from Mr Biden and, after discussing their genealogy, both promised to stay in touch, but Leslie died two years later.
During a 2013 visit to India, Mr Biden referred to Leslie’s letter, mentioning a “Biden from Mumbai” had suggested their “mutual great-great-great-great-something-or-other” had “worked for the East India Company back in the 1700s.”
The Biden administration has its work cut out to reverse a policy brought in under Donald Trump that turned away unaccompanied children at the US border.
Donald Trump’s previous policies are said to have caused trouble
He added in yesterday’s press conference that he would not let a child “starve to death and stay on the other side” of the US border.
He stated: “I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do it.
“That’s why I’ve asked the Vice President to be the lead person in dealing with focusing on the fundamental reasons why people leave Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador in the first place.
“It’s because of earthquakes, floods. It’s because of lack of food. It’s because of gang violence.
“It’s because of a whole range of things, that when I was Vice President, had the same obligation to deal with unaccompanied children.”