Psaki On Biden Opening Border Detention Camp For Migrant Kids: ‘This Is Not Kids Being Kept In Cages’

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was grilled during Tuesday’s press briefing in response to reports this week that President Joe Biden has opened a detention camp for migrant kids as the U.S. has seen a rise in illegal border crossings under the new administration.

Fox News reporter Peter Doocy pressed Psaki on why the administration was reopening the facility, which was used briefly during the Trump administration, to which Psaki blamed the COVID-19 pandemic.

“So it’s a temporary reopening during COVID-19,” she said. “Our intention is very much to close it, but we want to ensure that we can follow COVID protocols, as unaccompanied minors come into the United States.”

“But it’s the same facility that was open for a month in the Trump administration. Summer 2019, that is when Joe Biden said, under Trump, there have been horrifying scenes at the border of kids being kept in cages,” Doocy pressed. “And Kamala Harris said, basically babies in cages is a human rights abuse being committed by the United States government. So how is this any different than that?”

“We very much feel that way. These are facilities, let me be clear here, one, there’s a pandemic going on,” she said. “I’m sure you’re not suggesting that we have children right next to each other in ways that are not COVID safe, are you?”

“I’m suggesting that Kamala Harris said that this facility, putting people in this facility, was a human rights abuse committed by the United States government and Joe Biden said, under Trump there have been horrifying scenes at the border of kids being kept in cages,” Doocy pressed. “Now it’s not under Trump, it’s under Biden.”

“This is not kids being kept in cages,” she claimed. “This is kids, this is a facility that was opened, that’s going to follow the same standards as other HHS facilities, It is not a replication, certainly not, that’s never our intention of replicating the immigration policies of the past administration, but we are in a circumstance where we are not going to expel unaccompanied minors at the border, that would be inhumane. That is not what we are going to do here as an administration.”

WATCH:

TRANSCRIPT:

PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS REPORTER: At that point, why is the administration reopening a temporary facility for migrant children in Texas?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, first, the policy of this administration, as you well know, but just for others, is not to expel unaccompanied children who arrive at the border. And the process how it works is that Customs and Border Control continue to transfer unaccompanied children to the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement, that can take a couple of days, I just want to give this context as people need to understand the process. But because of COVID-19 protocols, like the social distancing requirements, the capacity to existing Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters has been significantly reduced, because of course, you can’t have a child in every bed, there needs to be spacing, and we abide by those spacing to protect the kids who are living in those facilities for a short period of time. And to ensure the health and safety of these kids, HHS took steps to open an emergency facility to add capacity, where these children can be provided the care they need, while they’re safely, before they’re safely placed with families, and sponsors. So it’s a temporary reopening during COVID-19. Our intention is very much to close it, but we want to ensure that we can follow COVID protocols, as unaccompanied minors come into the United States.

DOOCY: But it’s the same facility that was open for a month in the Trump administration. Summer 2019, that is when Joe Biden said, under Trump, there have been horrifying scenes at the border of kids being kept in cages. And Kamala Harris said, basically babies in cages is a human rights abuse being committed by the United States government. So how is this any different than that?

PSAKI: We very much feel that way. These are facilities, let me be clear here, one, there’s a pandemic going on. I’m sure you’re not suggesting that we have children right next to each other in ways that are not COVID safe, are you?

DOOCY: I’m suggesting that Kamala Harris said that this facility, putting people in this facility, was a human rights abuse committed by the United States government and Joe Biden said, under Trump there have been horrifying scenes at the border of kids being kept in cages. Now it’s not under Trump, it’s under Biden.

PSAKI: This is not kids being kept in cages. This is kids, this is a facility that was opened, that’s going to follow the same standards as other HHS facilities, It is not a replication, certainly not, that’s never our intention of replicating the immigration policies of the past administration, but we are in a circumstance where we are not going to expel unaccompanied minors at the border, that would be inhumane. That is not what we are going to do here as an administration. We need to find places that are safe under COVID protocols for kids to be, where they can have access to education, health, and mental services, consistent with their best interests. Our goal is for them to then be transferred to families or sponsors. So this is our effort to ensure that kids are not close in close proximity and that we are abiding by the health and safety standards that the government has been set out.

ED O’KEEFE, CBS NEWS REPORTER: Picking up on this discussion about the HHS facility versus Customs and Border Protection facilities. There’s a law that says you’re supposed to get kids out of this facility, a CBP facility. But data we obtained said that there were at least 179 kids had spent more than three days in those kinds of facilities in January, despite internal policies dictating that all minors should get out within three days. Immigration attorneys, attorneys who work with these kids, advocates, seeing all of this and saying this isn’t that much better than what was going on before. In regards to the HHS, the use of the HHS facilities, it’s a step backwards. So here’s the criticism that was made by candidates Biden, Harris … the criticism concern now these attorneys who work with and represent these children who say, this isn’t much different than what the Trump administration was doing. What say you?

PSAKI: Well, so you let me let me first say that you’re right that kids there’s about a 72 hour timeframe where kids should be transferred from CBP facilities to HHS sponsored facilities and that is certainly our objective. In terms of the specific kids that you mentioned. I would send you to DHS to give you more information on that, but that is not, that is not what we are hoping to achieve. We want these kids to be in facilities where they are getting access to health and medical assistance to education. As you know there are a number who have come into the country and we’re trying to manage that as well and ensure that we are able to transfer them as quickly as possible not just to stay in the HHS facilities either to get them into families and and sponsored homes. That is our human and moral objective from this administration. But I would send you to DHS for any more specifics on those kids. It’s a fair question.

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