White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday declined to call the new surge of immigrants at the U.S-Mexico southern border a “crisis,” despite reports of the number of detained unaccompanied children has tripled in just the last two weeks alone, saying she is not looking to “put new labels” on the escalating situation.
Speaking during her daily press briefing, Psaki was asked point-blank by a reporter, “At this point, is this a crisis at the border?”
“Look, I don’t think we need to sit here and put new labels on what we have already conveyed is challenging, what we have conveyed as a top priority for the president, what our policy teams are working on every single day,” Psaki said in response, striking the same tone she has in days where she refused to used the term “crisis” and instead saying the situation amounts to a “challenge.”
She then pivoted to a “couple of reasons” as factors causing people to come to the border in seeking asylum, pointing to “violence, economic hardships, and other things,” as well as a pair of hurricanes that happened last fall and the continuing effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Later in the briefing, another reporter pressed Psaki on why the Biden administration has “been so reluctant to call it a crisis,” to which the press secretary continued her daily dancing around the question and claiming that Americans only want to be informed on what President Biden is doing “to try to solve” the root causes of mass migration, and not how it will be tackling the crisis.
“Well, because we think that it’s most important to explain the substantive policy of what’s happening, what the root causes are of why these kids are coming, and what we’re doing to try to solve what is a very challenging circumstance at the border. That’s the information the American people are looking for, so that’s what we’re working to provide,” Psaki said.
More than 3,250 children who have crossed the border into the US without parents or guardians are currently in custody at the border. That’s more than three times the level from just two weeks ago, according to documents dated March 8 that were obtained by The New York Times and reported on the recent hidden data earlier on Tuesday. In one document, more than 8,100 unaccompanied migrant children are still being held at border facilities managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, and have only space for less than 850 more children. Based on the surge of unaccompanied migrant children detained, shelters are now less than 13 days away from reaching “maximum capacity.”
The press secretary would also not confirm reports of the number of unaccompanied migrant children being detained at the U.S. border has tripled in the past two weeks, telling reporters to ask the Department of Homeland Security to “confirm” the numbers.
“I’m not going to confirm numbers from here. Obviously, the DHS and others oversee the programs and the engagements that happen at the border,” Psaki said. “We’ve been very clear that there is an increase, that there are more children coming across the border than we have facilities for at this point in time. Those numbers are tracked by the Department of Homeland Security, so I’m just suggesting that you talk to them about specifics.”
However, DHS has not been publicly forthcoming with the latest figures and never addressed or confirmed the leaked numbers to The Times. The reporter pressed Psaki on why she is declining to confirm the “very important number,” informing her that DHS is also refusing to “confirm the numbers.”
“I would encourage you to go back to them and ask them again. We’re not going to confirm them from the White House. It’s not our program. It’s the Department of Homeland Security,” Psaki said, reiterating that her job “is to talk about what the root causes are here and what we’re doing from a policy standpoint to try to address the challenges that we’re facing.”
President Biden in his first month in office ended the construction of Trump’s signature U.S-Mexico southern border wall and immediately suspended the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, leading to the surge of unaccompanied minors arriving at the border in recent weeks. This has Biden officials racing to look for new facilities across the nation to house the unaccompanied children as they scramble to deal with the growing migrant crisis.
Over the weekend, officials from the Department of Homeland Security paid a visit to the border to assess the flow but never unveiled plans or enforcement tactics to tackle the increased surge.
Republican lawmakers have bashed Biden’s handling of the border crisis, with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio warned with Biden ending the “Remain in Mexico” program, the president has sent “another signal that it is okay to come to this country unlawfully.”
“I have tremendous compassion for the unimaginable conditions in which people live throughout our hemisphere, but there is nothing compassionate about President Biden’s approach. The result will be more chaos at our border, more lives exploited by evil human traffickers, and more illegal immigration,” Rubio added.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose state is overwhelmed by the magnitude of the border crisis issued a statement after Psaki’s Tuesday remarks saying, “This is a desperate humanitarian crisis. They won’t say it because they know that they caused this crisis with their radical, open borders agenda.”
With thousands now making the trek to cross the U.S., the crisis has gotten so bad that even the DHS Chief Alejandro Mayorkas is reportedly requested employees under his watch via email to volunteer as reinforcement to help Customs and Border Protection “as they face a surge in migration.”
“Today, I activated the Volunteer Force to support Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as they face a surge in migration along the Southwest Border,” Mayorkas wrote in the email sent Monday and obtained by Fox News. “You have likely seen the news about the overwhelming numbers of migrants seeking access to this country along the Southwest Border. President Biden and I are committed to ensuring our Nation has a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system while continuing to balance all of the other critical DHS missions.”
CBP revealed in a report last month that the number of migrants apprehended at the southern border in the month of January reached nearly 78,000, up from 36,679 in January 2020.