White House press secretary Jen Psaki got into a testy exchange with NBC reporter Kristen Welker over migrant children being held in detention facilities at the southern U.S. border during Thursday’s White House press briefing.
During the briefing’s question portion, Welker asked Psaki about Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s criticism of a reopened detention facility for children being run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and if it was “a failure on the part of this administration.” (RELATED: Jen Psaki Defends New Facilities For Migrant Children, Avoids Saying Kids Are Being Held In ‘Containers’)
“Well first I can’t speak to what ‘this’ is that’s being referred to,” Psaki responded, referencing what Welker read from Ocasio-Cortez’s statement on Twitter.
“The children in these detention facilities,” Welker clarified.
“Well that’s not what’s happening … what is happening now is there are children fleeing prosecution, fleeing threats in their own countries, traveling on their own, unaccompanied to the border,” Psaki said. “And our focus is on approaching this from the view of humanity and with safety in mind, and so the steps that we have taken is they are, of course, processed as quickly as possible, ideally with a maximum of three days, through CBP. Then they’re transferred to facilities overseen by HHS.”
Psaki went on to explain that the administration “had to re-open a new facility” due to coronavirus protocols to keep kids from being in beds next to each other. She added there are educational and medical services at the facility, but the objective is to move them “as quickly as possible” to vetted families or to reunite them with their families.
“How do you respond to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, though? Because she sees these images and it’s not okay from her perspective,” Welker asked.
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
“Well look, we will work, of course with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez on a range of issues, and we look forward to doing that. What I’m conveying from here is what the actual circumstances on the ground, and the tough choice that we have had to make. There are only a couple of options here,” Psaki responded.
She then described the choices as either sending kids on “a very dangerous journey” back to their countries or send them to families that haven’t been vetted, adding that there were instances in the past where kids were “trafficked” when families weren’t vetted properly.
“Our best option, in our view, is to get these kids processed through HHS facilities, where there are Covid protocols in place, where they’re safe, where they can have access to educational and medical care. There are very few good options here, and we chose the one we thought was best,” Psaki concluded.