The Biden administration is continuing to hammer the message that the US border is closed to families and adult individuals trying to enter the country via Mexico, even as the government takes in the surge of unaccompanied children and families arriving at patrol stations.
“The border remains closed. It is not open. We are turning away the majority of adults, but what we are really talking about here is children, and how we are handling that in the safest and most humane capacity,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in an interview with Fox News Sunday.
But Ms Psaki’s statement — which toes the line the administration has cast on immigration amid the surge in migrants — does not square with the reality of how most families and all unaccompanied children are being processed.
Last Thursday, 86 per cent of the families Customs and Border Patrol encountered were allowed into the US for processing, several news outlets reported.
Some Mexican states are refusing to house families with children younger than 7 years old, forcing US agents to process and release people while they await an adjudication on whether they’ll be deported or granted asylum.
Joe Biden has also adopted a policy of taking in every unaccompanied minor who arrives at the border, which has overwhelmed the housing system currently in place for such children.
Under federal law, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) is only supposed to house children for 72 hours before handing them over to the Department of Health and Human Services, which runs of a network of facilities.
But that network is overextended, and thousands of children have been in CBP custody well beyond the legal limit.
That has led to packed conditions for children at CBP facilities, a problem that is even more acute in the middle of the pandemic.
When Fox’s Chris Wallace pressed Ms Psaki on opening the border facilities to the media to report on conditions, the White House press secretary promised transparency but declined to provide an exact timeline on when journalists would be allowed to survey the scene.
“We want to provide access into the Border Patrol facilities,” Ms Psaki said. “We are mindful that we are in the middle of the pandemic. We want to keep the kids safe, we want to keep the staff safe.”
When Mr Wallace accused Ms Psaki of being less transparent than the Trump administration at the border, she responded: “We are committed to allowing cameras into Border Patrol facilities.”
A group of GOP senators visited the border this weekend, a fact-finding mission that doubled as an opportunity to rail on the Biden administration for not doing enough to stem the crisis.
“What is occurring here on the border is heartbreaking, and it is a tragedy,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said at a press event at the border.
Mr Cruz said senators had witnessed the “Biden cages” for unaccompanied migrant children firsthand.
The Biden administration has countered that bringing the unaccompanied children into the US is much more “humane” than making them stay in Mexico or go back to their homes in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and elsewhere.