Joe Biden’s administration is preparing to allow for media access to border facilities and will release details in the coming days, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday, amid criticism over the ability of reporters and photographers to gain entry to facilities housing a surge in migrant children.
“First of all, we are working to finalize details, and I hope to have an update in the coming days,” Psaki told reporters at the White House press briefing. “We are working through with the Department of Health and Human Services, and also the Department of Homeland Security to ensure privacy and to ensure that we are following Covid protocols. We remain committed to transparency, and of course as I noted last week, we certainly want to make sure the media has access to this sites.”
The issue of media access has drawn attention from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have been hammering the Biden administration, while Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) told NPR over the weekend, “We want to make sure that the press has access to hold the administration accountable. That’s the reason I was there, to hold them accountable. And they’ve seen a surge that began last year, that began under the Trump administration, but it’s real. It’s pressing their resources. And right now, these kids are staying, you know, too long in detention centers.” At the briefing, reporters pressed Psaki on reports of overcrowding in the holding facilities housing the minors.
Murphy visited the border in El Paso on Friday as part of a delegation of senators, but that briefing was closed to the press. Murphy said that “the rise in children coming to the border has happened so quickly that it has been difficult to move them out of these detention facilities in under three days,” as is required. He defended the Biden administration, and said that they were trying “as quickly as they can to process these kids in a humane way.” He and others argue that the surge started before Biden took office.
NBC News and MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff, author of Separated: Inside an American Tragedy, said last week that the “Biden administration is doing itself no favors by keeping us out of these facilities. I understand that Covid is happening right now. You need to have precautions inside of these places. But the Trump administration let us in. And they let us in because they wanted to explain and show us the cruelty of the separation policy. They wanted everyone to see that. Now it is the Biden administration’s turn to open the doors so that we can fully tell the story of not just where they want to go but why they want to go to that place.”
Last week, the Radio Television Digital News Association sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security calling for immediate access to journalists at Border Patrol processing facilities.
“The lack of information and collaboration from the Border Patrol and Department of Homeland Security has also created a vacuum of sorts that traditionally biased sources are filling with information that serves only their political interests,” wrote Dan Shelley, the organization’s executive director. “This dynamic is not conducive to efforts by journalists to communicate unbiased information to the public nor is it constructive to the heated dialogue of elected officials both locally and nationally.”
In a call in interview with Fox News’ Harris Faulkner on Monday, Trump blamed the Biden administration for the surge in migrants at the border. At one point in the interview, Faulkner interrupted him to announce, “The DHS secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, has resigned, Mr. President.”
Trump said he was “not surprised.”
But then Faulkner said, “Hold on. Let me stop. Let me listen to the team one more time…Forgive me, that has not happened. And I apologize.”
“OK, cross off that victory,” Trump said.
A Fox News spokesperson said that “the error stemmed from an audio issue in a virtual working environment. We corrected the mistake and continued on with the interview.”
Trump had issued a statement over the weekend calling for Mayorkas’ resignation.
At the briefing, NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell asked Psaki “what metrics would have to be in place” for the administration to call the migrant surge a “crisis.”
“Children presenting at our border who are fleeing violence, or fleeing prosecution, who are fleeing terrible situations, is not a crisis,” Psaki said. “We feel it is our responsibility to humanely approach this circumstances and make sure they are treated and put in conditions that are safe.”
She said that their policy is not to send children back, but to expedite processing at the border, opening up additional facilities and restarting the Central American minors program.
Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked Psaki whether Biden had concerns that the minors were being crowded together and created a “superspreader” event. “These kids are tested,” she said. “If they need to be quarantined they are quarantined. We also follow CDC guidelines to ensure that they are kept safe.”
But Doocy asked, “where else in the country would it be OK to have 400 people in a space for 260 during the pandemic?”
“We want to move these kids as quickly as possible through these facilities and into the shelters where there is safe spacing and then move them into homes where there is safe spacing,” she said.
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