Wednesday’s White House press briefing served as another failure by the Biden administration to come clean on the illegal immigration crisis at the U.S./Mexico border and was bolstered by two rounds of questioning from Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy. During one exchange, Press Secretary Jen Psaki scoffed at Doocy’s concerns, prompting him to informing here that “it’s not funny.”
WH Southern Border Coordinator Ambassador Roberta Jacobson was under the gun in Doocy’s first round, including this hardball: “[D]o you think it's coincidence that as soon as Trump and his immigration policy were on the way out and Biden and his stated policy were on the way in, this historic surge at the border started?”
Jacobson didn’t even try to hide their indifference to a flood of illegal immigration, saying “[s]urges tend to respond to hope and there was a significant hope for a more humane policy after four years of, you know, pent up demand,” though smugglers can now “spread disinformation.”
Doocy followed up: “If the change in administration has brought hope, then, from your perspective, is this surge good?”
Jacobson insisted that she didn’t say that but instead meant that hope was being met with “protection” and ensuring “cases can be adjudicated more quickly,” while “repeatedly” trying “to dissuade people from — from listening to those smugglers.”
Fast-forward to Psaki’s portion and Doocy came locked and loaded with this fiery query: “You've been telling migrants from right there for a month now, all the way back to February 10 that now is not the time to come, but they are coming in bigger numbers every day. So do you have a messaging problem?”
Psaki made clear she was already tired of Doocy (and, to their credit, other reporters in the room) pressing the White House on immigration, dialing up some snark:
Well, I would say that in the last administration, we had a morality problem and children were being pulled from the arms of their parents and kids were being set sent back on a treacherous journey, and that's not the approach of this administration.
She continued on, but Doocy waited her out and then brought up how some crossing the border have donned pro-Biden shirts as well as the double standard on CDC guidelines for migrant detention facilities versus schools (click “expand”):
DOOCY: But since the last administration is gone, tomorrow is 50 days of Biden. There are migrants showing up wearing t-shirts that say, “Biden, let us in” and candidate Biden was the one who said “I would end this notion for the first time in history, the people seeking asylum have to be in squalor on the other side of the river.” Why doesn't he come out and just say now is not the time?
PSAKI: Well, he actually did an interview with Univision about a week or a week and a half ago, where he conveyed a similar message and we've conveyed that at every opportunity that we have, I will say we are, as you noted, almost 50 days in. We are digging ourselves out of a broken and dismantled system. Roberta Master Jacobson referenced this in her opening as well when it comes to engagement with countries addressing the root causes. We couldn't start doing that until January. 20th There are programs like the relaunching of the Central American Minors Program, which was ended by the prior administration in 2017. And that meant that — that that program, which would have allowed for people to apply from the region. We had to restart that program, so we're working to fix the mess of the last couple of years. It's going to take some time. But this is clearly a priority for the President. We are looking at a range of options, which include the opening of additional facilities. It includes steps we can take to expedite the processing. It includes application and implementation of the CDC guidelines that were just came out that allow for more children to be house safely in to be housed safely in these facilities. So, we're looking at every option possible to help address the challenges we are facing at the border.
DOOCY: And you mentioned those CDC guidelines. Does the White House think it's a problem that when the CDC tells these migrant shelter facilities that they can be at full capacity if they are careful about COVID, many of them do, but when the CDC tells schools they can open in person full capacity, many of them don't.
PSAKI: Are — is there a school in particular that you have as an example that didn’t do that?
DOOCY: Are most schools in this country at full capacity with in-person learning?
PSAKI: Is there a specific school, though, that is not following the CDC guidelines of implementing the mitigation steps so they can reopen?
DOOCY: I mean the CDC is saying, “schools, you can be at — every school can be at full capacity.”
PSAKI: What the CDC guidelines —
DOOCY: As you know, he hasn’t talked to —
PSAKI: — just to be clear cause I think this is very important to be very clear and specific on.
DOOCY: I have it here.
PSAKI: They gave eight mitigation steps that schools can take to safely reopen. A number of schools have actually recently reopened.
Doocy didn’t fall for the misdirection, asking if this disconnect meant “the Border Patrol unions and the HHS unions been easier to work with than the teachers' unions.”
Psaki became even more annoyed, turning her head and even chuckling at Doocy’s question, calling it “a little bit of mixing different circumstances.”
Normally calm, Doocy’s face became red with disgust, telling Psaki: “It’s not funny.”
Psaki replied with another swipe, demanding he “take a responsible approach to the two issues” because, apparently, adults and children returning to school poses a more serious risk to contracting COVID-19 and come with “different circumstances” and “guidelines” than adults and children inside border facilities.
Again, there were other journalists that stepped up to the plate. CBS’s Cordes led off the Jacobson Q&A and, in one of her three questions, took note of Jacobson’s insistence that, for many returning to government under President Biden, “this isn’t your first rodeo,” so “[s]hould the administration have been better prepared to handle this influx of children before it changed the policy allowing them to stay in the country?”
CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins also came locked and loaded, serving as the latest reporter to question the White House on whether the crisis at the border is a crisis. Of course, Jacobson refused to say so (click “expand”):
COLLINS: You were talking about restarting CAM and these other long-term goals for what immigration policies should look like. But right now, new CNN reporting shows that unaccompanied migrant children are being held in these border facilities for, on average, 107 hours. That's up from, I believe, 77 hours on average last week. So, what is the Biden administration doing right now to fix that?
JACOBSON: Well, I think my part of this focuses much more on what we're doing at the end of this process in Central America and Mexico. I think all of us at every stage of this process are doing everything we can to make sure that children are well cared for and moved into facilities that are appropriate for them. But I want to make a point again that it's really important that people not make the dangerous journey in the first place, that we provide them with alternatives to making that journey, because it's not safe on route. And so if I could just emphasize that — that it's really important that that message get out, because the perception is not the same as the reality in terms of the border not being open. But we want to provide through CAM, through other mechanisms ways for some of these young people to be reunited with family members in the United States. [SPEAKING SPANISH]
COLLINS: You're telling them not to come just to follow up quickly —
COLLINS: — you're telling them they should not come. Would you describe what's happening on the border as a crisis, given how these numbers are spiking so much week-by-week?
JACOBSON: You know, I think — I'm not trying to be cute here, but I think the fact of the matter is we have to do what we do regardless of what anybody calls the situation and the fact is we are all focused on improving the situation, on changing to a more humane and efficient system. And — and whatever you call it wouldn't change what we're doing because we have urgency from the President on down to fix our system and make sure that we are better at dealing with the hopes and the dreams of these migrants in their home country.