Psaki made the remarks at a Sept. 24 White House press briefing, where she was asked by a reporter why Biden hadn’t visited the southern border in light of the surge in illegal immigration under his watch.
“What would you like him to do at the southern border? And what impact do you think that would have on the policies?” Psaki replied.
Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy, who posed the original question, pressed the issue, asking, “Why doesn’t he want to go?”
“I don’t think it’s an issue of wanting to go,” Psaki replied. “I think it’s an issue of what’s most constructive to address what we see as a challenging situation at the border and a broken immigration system.”
Psaki added that Biden’s view is that the most constructive role he can play is to help push immigration reform forward and “listening to his team of advisers, who have been to the border multiple times, about what the path forward should look like.”
The issue of top Biden administration officials personally visiting the southern border has been raised on prior occasions, including at White House briefings, with Psaki taking the position that it’s sufficient for delegated officials, such as Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, to visit the border, rather than the president or vice president.
In June, Vice President Kamala Harris faced pressure to visit the border and landed in hot water for calling such a move a “grand gesture” that would have little substantive impact.
At a briefing, Psaki was asked to comment on Harris’ “grand gesture” remark, with the press secretary saying the VP was tasked with working with leaders in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to address the root causes of migration and related matters. She added that the Biden administration didn’t want advice from Republicans on the border crisis.
“We’re not taking our guidance and advice from them,” Psaki said. “But if it is constructive and it moves the ball forward for her to visit the border, she certainly may do that.”
Harris did end up visiting the southern border in late June.
Calls for Biden to visit the border come in the context of a recent swell of illegal immigrants in Del Rio, Texas.
Mayorkas told reporters at a briefing Friday that nearly 30,000 illegal immigrants have been encountered in the Del Rio area since Sept. 9, with the highest number at one time reaching around 15,000, many of whom camped out under an international bridge near the border.
The DHS chief said that camp has now been cleared and officials continue to expel individuals who entered the United States illegally under Title 42 authority. So far, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has carried out 17 expulsion flights to Haiti, involving around 2,000 individuals, according to Mayorkas.
Asked about what happened to the 15,000 or so individuals camped out under the bridge, Mayorkas said some have been returned to Haiti, others have been moved to processing facilities along the border, where “many” will be returned to Haiti. While he did not provide detailed figures, Mayorkas said some of the individuals qualify for asylum on grounds of fleeing persecution from their home country would not be returned to Haiti but would be placed in immigration enforcement proceedings.