The White House struggled to answer on Thursday how it was working to dispel the belief among migrants that the US border is open, instead shifting focus to the administration’s “moral and humane” immigration policy, amid a nearly 200 percent surge of illegal crossings.
Speaking to reporters at a briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki engaged in a back-and-forth with two reporters about her claim earlier this week that the US is turning away the “vast majority” of migrants at the southern border.
After being pressed on Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador saying this week that migrants believed the borders were open under President Biden, Psaki admitted that what she was saying “is not, I guess, what you’re perhaps seeing if you’re looking at a portion of the border, but what they are tracking in terms of numbers and data.”
Psaki went on to reiterate that the Biden administration is sending the message that it is “not the time to come,” but eventually, migrants will be processed in a “moral and a humane” way.
“We continue to convey that this is not the time to come [to the United States]. The president is committed to putting in place, in partnership with our Department of Homeland Security, a moral and a humane process for for processing people at the border, but that capacity is limited right now and it means we’re just not equipped to process people at the pace that we would like to.”
Asked about how the Biden administration planned to make it clear to migrants that the border was not open, Psaki sidestepped addressing the question directly.
“Well, we’re looking for every opportunity we can, of course, from the President to the Secretary of Homeland Security to the Secretary of State, to communicate where we stand,” the White House press secretary told those in the briefing room. “Which is that the President, our entire administration, are committed to digging out of the immoral approach to immigration of the prior administration.”
While maintaining the White House’s commitment to avoiding an “immoral approach” to immigration, Psaki cautioned that the team was not yet ready with a concrete plan to curb the flow of illegals.
“It is going to take some time, and we need to put in place not only a comprehensive approach to immigration by passing a law that will help address the root causes in the countries that are leading people to try to come to the United States, that fund smart security at the border, that provides a pathway to citizenship.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.AP Photo/Evan Vucci
“But we also need some time to review all of the detrimental steps that were put in place by the prior administration.”
The Biden administration is facing fresh spikes of over 200 percent in illegal border crossings from this time last year and has just opened another tent city to detain illegal immigrants in Texas.
The US Customs and Border Protection revealed in a report Wednesday that the number of migrants apprehended at the border in the month of January reached nearly 78,000, up from 36,679 in January 2020.
Single adult Mexican citizens accounted for more than 37,000 CBP encounters, a 119 percent increase from this time last year, according to the agency.
Amid the surge, a new “soft-sided facility” was established this week by the agency in Donna, Texas, to hold individuals originally staying at the Centralized Processing Center in McAllen, Texas.
Asked again about the matter, Psaki reread her statement that “the majority of people who come to the border are turned away” before noting, “and we are enforcing our laws at the border but we are also doing it, or attempting to do it, in a humane way.”
Psaki went on to state again that, “This is not the time to come.”
“When long-term holding solutions aren’t possible due to Covid-19 capacity limitations or other reasons, some migrants are processed for removal, provided a notice to appear and wait within the US to await an immigration hearing. These have been incredibly narrow and limited circumstances which have happened recently.”