Reporters on Thursday again pressed the White House over the surge of illegal immigrants and unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S-Mexico border as they questioned why the administration has repeatedly refused to call it a “crisis.”
At one point in the daily briefing, Kaitlan Collins—the chief White House Correspondent for CNN—brought up the fact that there are reportedly over 3,700 unaccompanied minors in Border Patrol custody. Collins noted many of the minors are spending on average four days in the facilities and asked press secretary Jen Psaki, “How can you say that’s not a crisis?”
“What I’ve conveyed is it doesn’t matter what you call it, it is an enormous challenge, it is something front and center for the president,” Psaki responded.
“While there are no final policy decisions, there are variety of actions under consideration, including identifying and assessing other licensed facilities that can help add safe capacity for these children,” she added. “The president is very focused and very in the weeds on the operational details here and pushing his team to take every step that can be taken to address exactly what you noted.”
Psaki acknowledged the facilities are not meant for permanent residence, and noted they are focused on shortening the time minors spend there.
“Our focus here is on getting to the roots of the issue … we don’t need to feel the need to play games with what it’s called,” Psaki added.
On average, over the last 21 days, Customs and Border Protection encountered 435 unaccompanied children daily, up from a previous average of around 340 children.
In February, despite a week of freezing weather, Border Patrol apprehended 100,441 illegal border-crossers along the southern border, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Another 26,000 people evaded capture, according to Jaeson Jones, a former Texas Department of Public Safety captain who received the provisional CBP data from internal sources, which was reviewed by The Epoch Times.
At another point in the briefing, one reporter asked Psaki for her response to the comments made recently by Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador.
Obrador said of Biden the morning after a virtual meeting with him on March 1 that: “They see him as the migrant president, and so many feel they’re going to reach the United States. We need to work together to regulate the flow, because this business can’t be tackled from one day to the next.”
Psaki in response said that Mexico is an “important partner in ensuring we’re addressing the flow of migrants from central America through Mexico.”
The press secretary acknowledged there has been “a large flow of children across the border, we recognize that … But the facts are the vast, vast majority of people who come to our border are turned away.”
“We certainly also recognize that because the president and our administration has made a decision that the way to humanely approach immigration is to allow for unaccompanied minors to come and be treated with humanity and be in a safe place while we’re trying to get them into sponsor homes, that more may have come to our border.”
On Wednesday, the White House expressed a desire to “expand safe and legal avenues to the United States,” as it announced the restarting of a program to help minors be reunited with a parent legally in the United States.
Special Assistant to the President & Coordinator for the Southern Border Ambassador Roberta Jacobson announced at the time that they are restarting the “Central American Minors Program,” which Jacobson said helps “children to be reunited with a parent who is legally in the United States.”
Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.