White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks to reporters during a briefing at the White House in Washington March 2, 2021.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the Biden government’s border policy in a press conference Wednesday amid growing concerns about the conditions faced by unaccompanied migrant children in border guards and the lack of media access to these facilities.
“The Border Patrol facilities are not for children,” said Psaki.
Psaki said implementing President Joe Biden’s immigration priorities, which include not turning away unaccompanied minors at the US-Mexico border, “requires more effective and efficient processing at the border.”
“It will take time,” said Psaki.
Customs and border guards met an average of 565 unaccompanied children along the southern border per day last week, compared with an average of 313 children per day in the previous month, NBC News reported.
Over 4,200 children are being held in overcrowded Border Patrol facilities, with 2,943 of those children being held above the 72-hour legal limit, according to NBC News.
Members of the Biden government have avoided calling the situation on the border a crisis, even though prominent lawmakers, including House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, have called the record numbers of unaccompanied children a humanitarian crisis.
The White House comments came after NBC News reported Wednesday that the Biden administration was restricting what Border Patrol can share with the media.
Several news organizations, including NBC News, have denied requests for access to or photos from processing plants with unaccompanied migrant children.
Speaking at the meeting on press access in the Border Patrol facilities, Psaki said: “We continue to seek to share with you all the data on the number of children crossing the border, the steps we are taking, the work we are doing to do the opening to share facilities. “
Psaki said the administration “wholeheartedly support it[s] Transparency “and referred press representatives to the Department of Homeland Security for media inquiries.
The press secretary said Biden saw photos of the Border Patrol facilities when administrative officials briefed him on the situation.
During a call to reporters on Wednesday, administration officials said they are working to open new facilities for the children, increase the emergency room and reduce the time it takes to reunite a child with a family member or godparent.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been instructed to house and transfer unaccompanied migrant children at the border, Homeland Security Minister Alejandro Mayorkas said on Saturday.
The Biden administration on Friday ended a Trump-era policy that allowed ICE to gather information on the immigration status of people signing up to care for unaccompanied migrant children.
The government announced on March 10 that it would reinstate an Obama-era program to allow some Central American children to legally enter the United States from their home countries.
The White House continues to blame former President Donald Trump’s administration for the increasing numbers of migrants on the southern border.
“The situation on the ground is certainly partly challenging, as we have inherited a dismantled system that was not prepared for processing asylum applications that were still in place,” said Psaki at the press conference on Wednesday.