WATCH: Psaki Dodges Question About Mexico’s President Blaming Biden For Causing Boom In Illegal Immigration
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 11: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a daily press briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on March 11, 2021 in Washington, DC. Psaki held a briefing to answer questions from members of the press.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki dodged numerous questions on Thursday about President Joe Biden’s border crisis, including a question relating to Mexico’s president blaming Biden for the surge in illegal immigration that is taking place.

“Mexico’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said that people coming into the US right now see Biden, President Biden, as the migrant president,” Fox News reporter Peter Doocy said. “Does the White House take that as a compliment?”

“Well, first it’s Mexico will have to be, is an important partner in ensuring we’re addressing the flow of migrants from Central America through Mexico, and many to the border of the United States,” Psaki responded. “We have conveyed privately and publicly, as well, that the majority of people who come to our border will be 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 homes and sponsored homes that some more may have come to our border, and there have been, of course, a large flow of children across the border.”

“We recognize that, but we made a policy decision because we felt it was the humane approach,” she said. “But the facts are the vast, vast majority of people who come to our border are turned away, and the statistics bear that out.”

Even CNN pressed Psaki on Biden’s border crisis, specifically on why Biden won’t refer to it as a crisis.

The two had the following exchange:

CNN REPORTER: The administration has refused to call it a crisis, instead referring to it as a challenge and saying what you call it doesn’t make a difference of how you’re responding to it. But now today, there are over 3,700 children, unaccompanied migrant children, in border patrol custody. They’re spending, on average, over 100 hours, four days, in these facilities that are jail-like facilities not meant for children, so how can you say that’s not a crisis?

PSAKI: Well, I think what Ambassador Jacobson and Secretary Mayorkas were conveying, and what I’ve conveyed, is it doesn’t matter what you call it. It is an enormous challenge. It is something that is front and center for the president. As I noted yesterday, he had what is a regular meeting, but he had a briefing yesterday on the trip to the border. There are a number of, while there are no final policy decisions, there are a variety of actions under consideration, including identifying and assessing other licensed facilities that can help add safe capacity for these children, relaunching, as we talked about over the last couple of days, the Central American Minors Program, accelerating the unification of children with vetted families, family, and sponsors, steps like embedding HHS and ORR in the earlier parts of the process.

The president is very focused and very in the weeds on the operational details here, and on taking and pushing his team to take every step that can be taken to address exactly what you noted, Caitlin, which is the fact that children should not — these border patrol facilities are not made for children. We are focused on expediting the time they spend there, that these HHS shelters are not meant for permanent living, for anyone permanently living there, that we want to expedite the timeline between when kids cross the border and when they are getting to sponsor homes. So, our focus here is on getting to the root of the issues and taking actions, and we don’t feel the need to play games with what it’s called.

CNN REPORTER: Aren’t those the steps that you would take if it was a crisis that you had on your hands?

PSKAI: These are the policies we’re taking to address what we feel is a vital human challenge at the border, but what our responsibility here is to do is to project and convey what policies we’re taking, what the president’s commitment is. That’s exactly what we’re doing, and we don’t see the need to put new labels.

Even NBC News reporter Kristen Welker pressed Psaki on Biden’s border crisis.

The two had the following exchange:

WELKER: I could try one more time on the issue at the border and just follow up on the comments of the Mexican president, who said that the surge in unaccompanied migrants is because they see the president as the migrant president. What does that say about how the president is handling this situation?

PSAKI: Look, I think the president has been clear, as has every member of our administration, you had Ambassador Jacobson doing this the other day, that the border is not open. Now is not the time to come. We turn away the vast majority of people who come to the border. The vast, vast majority, these numbers are put out by CBP and the Department of Homeland Security, and people can see those numbers. We stand by our decision and our policy as an administration not to send unaccompanied minors back on the treacherous journey. That is our policy because we feel it’s humane and it’s moral, and we think the world sees it that way as well.

WELKER: Does the message need to be even clearer though? Yesterday, Ambassador Jacobsen acknowledged that yes, she said in her own words, you’re trying to walk and chew gum at the same time. Does there need to be a more streamlined message in order to prevent this surge?

PSAKI: Well, she also talked about, Kristen, which is true, in the region, we’re working against the efforts of smugglers and others who are conveying a different message. One of the steps we’re taking that I touched on a little bit earlier is also thinking of rebuilding or going back to some of the policies that were in place previously, where children could apply for the Central American Minors Program, which was ended in 2017. We estimate there’s about 3,000 kids who might be eligible, who could apply, and they could apply from the region, which would mean they wouldn’t make the treacherous journey. They wouldn’t be at the border working through border patrol. We’re looking for ways to reduce the number of kids who are taking this treacherous journey. Then we’re also looking for ways to expedite when kids are connected to family members, to safe sponsor homes.

We’re looking for ways to expedite getting them from the border patrol facilities into the shelters as well. There’s numbers challenges here, and we’re working through a lot of the operational details and specifics, but we stand by that what we feel is a more humane approach to what is happening at the border. We are looking for ways operationally to make it more efficient, to move kids through the system more quickly. Ultimately, when they get to the point where they’re with sponsor homes, many of them will not be able to stay. Most of them. They have to apply and … they have to go through the process, but we still are working for ways to expedite the system in the meantime.

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