White House press secretary Jen Psaki avoided saying if the situation at the U.S. southern border constituted “a crisis” during Tuesday’s White House press briefing.
Psaki was answering questions from reporters when NBC’s Peter Alexander asked about the Biden administration’s messaging to migrants attempting to come to the United States and the large number of unaccompanied children reaching the border, which seemed “like a crisis.” (RELATED: ‘That’s Not What’s Happening’: Jen Psaki Gets Testy With NBC Reporter Over Migrant Children In Detention Facilities)
Alexander noted that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Monday the administration was “not saying don’t come to those migrants” trying to get to the U.S. but rather, “don’t come now” until there is a “safe and orderly process” that can be delivered quickly.
“It sounds like the message is come later, so when should these migrants come?” Alexander asked.
Psaki didn’t directly respond to the question, and instead said that President Joe Biden has “put forward an immigration reform package” to address the “root causes in the region,” as well as “provide a pathway to citizenship.” She also said it was going to take “probably months” to process people at the border.
Alexander followed up, asking “For clarity, it sounds like, even if unintentionally, you’re sending the message that these migrants can come, they’ve just got to wait a little bit longer. Is that the message you’re sending?”
“We are not encouraging people to come, but we also believe differently from the past administration that we are not going to turn away kids who are under eighteen,” Psaki replied.
Alexander then noted that “117,000 unaccompanied children will arrive in the U.S.” this year, according to DHS projections. “That number seems like a crisis. The secretary said that it isn’t. How would we define a crisis?” he asked.
“Well, I’ll leave that to the Secretary of Homeland Security to define. He said it was a challenge. It is a challenge,” Psaki said, before noting that the administration is treating the children “humanely and safely” and processing them “as quickly as we can.”
Later in the briefing, Psaki was asked by Fox News’ Kristin Fisher, “At what point does it become a crisis?”
“Well, I would say I don’t think we need to meet your bar of what we need to call it. We had the Secretary of Homeland Security yesterday conveying it’s a challenge. We’ve provided numbers publicly about how serious that challenge is,” Psaki answered. “We, of course, because we are approaching this humanely, and we are approaching this in a way where we will keep the children safe … but again we’re going to approach this without labeling.”