President Biden received criticism online for claiming in a recent interview that “undocumented” immigrants built this country.

The statement came as he apologized for using the term “illegal” to describe Jose Ibarra, the Venezuelan national accused of killing Augusta University nursing student Laken Riley. The president drew backlash on social media for crediting illegal immigrants for having “built” the U.S. – something he had previously credited to the American middle class.

“In his SOTU speech he said unions and the middle class built this country, now he says ‘undocumented’ immigrants built the country. Any guess as to who he will say built the country the next time he’s speaking to an African-American audience?” journalist Jeff Gremillion wrote on X. 

Sitting down with MSNBC’s Jonathan Capehart for a wide-ranging interview that aired Saturday, Biden said he should not have used the term “illegal” for Ibarra, 26, who illegally crossed the border in Texas but was still released for parole into the U.S. before being charged with murdering Riley. 

Biden stressed to Capehart that he should have used the word “undocumented” – instead of “illegal” – when citing Riley’s accused murderer during an off-script moment at the State of the Union address last week.


“And I shouldn’t have used illegal, I should’ve… It’s undocumented,” Biden said. “And look, when I spoke about the difference between Trump and me, one of the things I talked about on the border was his – the way he talks about vermin, the way he talks about these people polluting the blood. I talked about what I’m not going to do, what I won’t do. I’m not going to treat any, any, any of these people with disrespect. Look, they built the country. The reason our economy is growing, we have to control the border and more orderly flow.” 

During his State of the Union address, Biden – while acknowledging his endorsement by United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain – said, “Wall Street didn’t build America. They’re not bad guys. They didn’t build it, though. The middle class built the country, and unions built the middle class.” 

The juxtaposition also drew condemnation from another X user, who wrote, “Did president @JoeBiden just say the illegal’s, I mean undocumented immigrants built this country? The @WhiteHouse needs to explain this…. My great grand parents [were] born in this nation in slavery!”


Former President Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, slammed Biden’s apology at a rally. Torching Biden for mixing Laken’s name up with USC head football coach, Lincoln Riley, Trump lamented that Biden “went on television and apologized for calling Laken’s murderer an illegal,” drawing boos from the crowd. 

“They have a new name that’s even worse. You know what the new name is? Neighbor,” Trump said. “A newcomer to our country… are we going crazy or what? Is this country going crazy? How about that one, newcomer… no, he was an illegal. And I say he was an illegal alien. He was an illegal immigrant. He was an illegal migrant. And he shouldn’t have been in our country, and he never would have been under the Trump policy.” 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who had challenged Biden during the State of the Union to say Riley’s name, also criticized Biden’s apology for the term “illegal.” 

“Disgusting. Joe Biden just apologized to the illegal alien animal who brutally murdered Laken Riley,” Greene wrote on X. 

Trump met with Riley’s parents at his rally Saturday, the same day Biden’s interview apology aired.