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White House Doubles Down On Refusal To Call Border Influx A Crisis: ‘It’s A Vital Human Challenge’

Jen Psaki

“There are over 3,700 unaccompanied migrant children in border control custody … How can you say that’s not a crisis?” one reporter asked. 


The White House doubled down on its refusal to label the record-setting number of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border a “crisis,” instead referring to the massive influx as a “vital human challenge.”

“There are over 3,700 unaccompanied migrant children in border control custody … in these facilities that are jail-like … How can you say that’s not a crisis?” one reporter asked. 
“Well, I think what Ambassador Jacobson and Secretary Mayorkas were conveying and what I’ve conveyed is it doesn’t matter what you call it, it is an enormous challenge,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during Thursday’s press briefing. “It is something that is front and center for the President.”

Just this week, The Washington Post reported that at least 3,500 minors are being held in U.S. Border Patrol stations, many for an average of 107 hours, which violates federal law due to a lack of beds and space. Another 8,500 are crowded into shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

When another reporter at the briefing questioned whether President Joe Biden considers the Mexican president’s comment labeling him “the migrant president” a compliment, however, Psaki said that the administration continues to turn people away.

“We certainly also recognize that because the president and our administration has made a decision that the way to humanely approach immigration is to allow for, you know, for unaccompanied minors, to come and be treated with humanity and be in a safe place while we’re trying to get them into homes,” she said. “…there have been, of course, a large flow of children across the border. We recognize that but we made a policy decision because we felt that was the humane approach but the facts are the vast, vast majority of people who come to our border are turned away and the statistics bear that out.”

When pressed on if the administration’s current plan of action is the same one it would use if it had a border crisis, Psaki ignored the word crisis, calling the influx a “vital human challenge.”

“These are the policies we’re taking to address what we feel is a vital human challenge at the border, but what our responsibility here is to do, is to project and convey what policies were taking, what the president’s commitment is.  That’s exactly what we’re doing and we don’t see the need to put new labels,” Psaki quipped before quickly moving on to another reporter.

Psaki said Biden was briefed on problems surfacing at the border, but that “no final policy decisions” have been made by the administration yet.

“There are a variety of actions under consideration, including identifying and assessing other licensed facilities that can help add safe capacity for these children, relaunching, as we talked about of the last couple of days, the Central American minors program, accelerating the unification of children with that it, families and sponsors. Steps like embedding HHS in ORR in the earlier parts of the process,” Psaki said. “The president is very focused and very in the weeds on the operational details here and on and taking and pushing his team to take every step that can be taken.”