White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday defended the new facilities being used to house unaccompanied migrant children, and avoided calling them “containers” as they have been described.
During the daily White House press briefing, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked Psaki about how long children are being held in the temporary Customs and Border Protection (CBP) “chain-link fence” facilities, and noted that photos of “containers” at a new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) facility suggest there will be “kids in containers instead of kids in cages.” (RELATED: Jen Psaki Blows Off Criticism Of New Border Detention Centers For Children: ‘This Is Not Kids Being Kept In Cages’)
“We spoke yesterday about immigration, and this HHS facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas for migrant children, and you said it is not kids in cages. We’ve seen some photos now of containers. Is there a better description? Is it kids in containers instead of kids in cages? What is the White House’s description of this facility?” Doocy asked.
Psaki didn’t directly respond to the question and instead explained the process of how the administration is handling unaccompanied migrant children.
She stated that they will not be “putting them at risk” by sending them home or putting them with families or sponsors “without any vetting,” but that they could “quickly transfer them” to the new HHS facilities. She added that because of coronavirus protocols, the existing HHS facilities “had to expand” into other “facilities,” avoiding Doocy’s use of the term “containers,” and that the goal was to move the children “quickly” from there to vetted sponsored families.
“We’ve been talking to people down at the border who say that right now DHS and the border patrol are using the same kind of facilities now that they did during the Trump administration … it’s tents, and chain-link fence around it,” Doocy said. “The issue would be that just in the last couple of days they had hundreds of kids that they were holding for over 72 hours, which is the legal limit to keep somebody in a temporary facility.”
Psaki answered saying that the objective is to move the kids “as quickly as possible under 72 hours” to the HHS facilities. She explained that recently “there were some delays” moving some of the kids to the HHS facilities “because of weather” and because some of the facilities “did not have power” or the “capacity” to take in the kids. “That is not our objective, that is not our goal,” she added, reiterating that they wanted to move the children as “quickly as possible.”
Doocy then asked if the administration had seen the tweet from Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a critic of the facilities under the Trump administration, about the new HHS facility, saying that “this is not okay, never has been okay, never will be okay – no matter the administration or party.”
This is not okay, never has been okay, never will be okay – no matter the administration or party. https://t.co/AEV7s7QQnB
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 23, 2021
Psaki responded that she had not seen the full context of the tweet, but that she thinks the situation at the border is “heartbreaking.” She then reiterated that the administration is working as quickly as possible to process the kids into the HHS facilities.
Doocy then asked “if there is this big difference” in the CBP and HHS facilities, would the administration support letting reporters in to “see what the difference is.”
Psaki didn’t directly respond, and instead referred him to the Department of Homeland Security.