Thursday’s White House press briefing was a barnburner about the border crisis as, at one end, Fox News’s Peter Doocy pushed a perturbed Press Secretary Jen Psaki for answers on Team Biden’s erroneous math about Haitian illegal immigrants, their lax COVID policies, and how women are being allowed to stay as long as they claim they’re pregnant (which led Psaki to imply Doocy was a sexist).
And at the other end of the spectrum, PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor was incensed about how images of border officials using horses had “traumatiz[ed] Haitian Americans” and demanded President Biden use “his bully pulpit” to stand up for Haitians (as opposed to Americans living in border towns).
Doocy began by going back to some statistical inconsistencies Psaki had offered minutes earlier: “So, there are 15,000 migrants under the Del Rio bridge Saturday. If you add up the ones that you say were expelled or released it's less than 5,000. Say there's 5,000 that are still left. Where’s everybody else?”
After Psaki dismissed Doocy’s fact-check by saying she’d be “happy to get you a more fruitful rundown,” he pointed out the fact that “when you talk about how some of these people are being placed in removal proceedings, that does not mean removed.”
Psaki’s response all but conceded Doocy’s point as she said it “means they're in the process of going through removal proceedings,” which, for those playing along, means absolutely nothing.
Doocy then moved to COVID, wanting to know “how is” the Biden administration’s policies “helping” to “stop the spread” when “most of these people that are going into removal proceedings are being put on either buses from Del Rio to El Paso and Laredo or being flown to Tucson, with no Covid tested — testing unless they show symptoms.”
Unsurprisingly, Psaki said with a straight face that “we have a protocol and process in place as it relates to...testing and quarantining.”
Of course, Psaki also clung to the insistence that the government collects “biometric data and other data” that ensures they can be tracked within the country “if [they] cannot be expelled under Title 42.”
Though Psaki threw a larger word salad in Doocy’s direction, he fired off this piercing follow-up: “But why should somebody, say, in Laredo, Texas, or El Paso or Tucson, Arizona have to have their chance of catching Covid go up because hundreds of miles away, there’s an open border?”
Giving what was perhaps the most asinine statement of the briefing, Psaki said “there certainly is not an open border” as the government’s “continuing to employ our immigration proceedings and process and restrictions.”
After the briefing, Fox correspondent Bill Melugin again did a full fact-check on America Reports of Psaki’s claims, including that laughable statement that those kept in the U.S. won’t disappear.
And before moving on, Doocy triggered Psaki by talking about the fact that not only are families being released en masse, the same goes for those with any woman who claims to be pregnant, regardless of their veracity (click “expand”):
DOOCY: And just a final follow-up, you say the border is not open, but we're told by our teams on the ground you guys are releasing pretty much all family units, couples where the woman says that she is pregnant or single women who say that they are pregnant and that nobody actually has to take a pregnancy test unless they want to. So, how —
PSAKI: Are you suggesting you don't believe when women say they're pregnant. Is that a big issue, we think, at the border?
DOOCY: I am not in charge of keeping the border secured. You guys are.
PSAKI: You think pregnant women are posing a big threat to the border?
DOOCY: You tell me.
PSAKI; To the border communities?
DOOCY: You tell me.
PSAKI: That’s a big issue?
DOOCY: You tell me.
PSAKI: I'm not aware of pregnant women being a big issue of concern to people at the border. What I will note for you, Peter, is that as I said earlier, there is a process if people cannot be expelled under Title 42 for a range of reasons. Some of that is because countries they came from or other countries, including Mexico, may not be accepting families with children under the age of seven. They are placed in removal proceedings. Those removal proceedings require them to either go to a detention facility or require them to go get a notice to appear and — including providing their biometric data and otherwise so that they can be — we can ensure we know where they are, and we can ensure we know when they're going to come back. So, that's what the process is. If there's a big outrage about pregnant women —
DOOCY: No, the issue is not about —
PSAKI: — I'm not tracking it.
DOOCY: The issue is not about pregnant women. The issue is: Is the border open or is the border closed because my understanding is that a lot of this is happening on this side of the border?
PSAKI: I think you know the answer to that question and I just conveyed clearly that we are implementing our border restrictions, including Title 42, including making clear that people who are coming through irregular migration that this is not the time to come and they will be placed in removal proceedings.
A few minutes before Doocy, Alcindor had her go and made clear that, despite working for taxpayer-funded PBS, she would be putting Haiti first: “[T]he President has often used his bully pulpit during the most important times in his administration. Why is he not using that bully pulpit to speak out forcefully himself on the treatment of Haitians?”
Psaki ran through her talking points about how the administration was upset about said horse incident (if one could even call it that), but Alcindor wasn’t satisfied and demanded Biden do more because Haitian Americans are “traumatiz[ed]” that their fellow Haitians weren’t being treated “respectfully and with humanity.”
The press secretary went back to her talking points, so Alcindor turned to the resignation of Special Envoy Daniel Foote. Very quickly, it became clear that even Psaki had enough of her advocacy (click “expand”):
ALCINDOR: Daniel Foote also said in his letter — he called the U.S. policy inhumane, deeply flawed. Does the President believe anything in this letter that Daniel Foote is saying rings true, has some sort of point that he that he believes it's true?
PSAKI: Which aspect?
ALCINDOR: He called the — the — he called the — the policy toward Haiti inhumane. He said that —
PSAKI: He wasn't specific in his letter. What I noted earlier before —
ALCINDOR: — he was quite specific.
PSAKI: — what I noted early — let me finish, Yamiche. What I noted earlier before is that we have taken very specific actions as it relates to the horrific photos that we would that are not. We're not going to stand for in this administration. I don't know if he was referring to that or something else. That's why I asked, raised the point. His purview —
PSAKI: — let me finish, Yamiche. His purview was not about migration. He didn't raise his concerns about migration privately. We respect his point of view, respect his ability to bring forward concerns, to raise ideas ,to raise proposals. That's certainly something the President welcomes from everybody on his team and something that he had the opportunity to do in a range of meetings. We also have to make decisions here, based on what we feel are going to help promote democracy in Haiti, including, uh, Haitian-led, uh, reforms, Haitian-led steps on the ground to make changes in the country.
ALCINDOR: I’ve talked to a number of people who say that he did raise concerns over the deportation of Haitians and the treatment of Haitians. Are you saying then that Daniel Foote is not telling the truth in this letter?
PSAKI: I would point you to the State Department who have conveyed clearly in their statement, what I just said.
ALCINDOR: And one last question, I promise.
Eventually, Alcindor capped off her round by demanding Biden “be listening to Haitian civil society” for how Haiti should move forward (and ostensibly it’s immigration or lack thereof).
To see the relevant transcript from September 23's briefing (including more questions and substantive ones from Bloomberg’s Jennifer Epstein and Canadian reporter Richard Latendresse), click here.