Joe Biden

White House Defends Border Policy Amid Concerns About Migrant Children in Custody

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
  • The Biden administration has promised to implement a more humane immigration policy, which includes not turning away unaccompanied children at the border.
  • However, there's growing concern about the conditions children face in Border Patrol facilities.
  • Over 4,200 children are being held in Border Patrol facilities, with 2,943 of those children held over the 72-hour legal limit, according to data obtained by NBC News.
  • Psaki said the White House was committed to transparency after media outlets, including NBC News, have been denied access to processing facilities.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the Biden administration's border policy in a press briefing Wednesday, in the face of growing concern about the conditions that unaccompanied migrant children face in Border Patrol facilities and a lack of media access to those facilities.

"The Border Patrol facilities are not facilities made for children," Psaki said.

Psaki said implementing the immigration priorities of President Joe Biden, which include not turning away unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border, "requires putting in place more effective and efficient processing at the border."

"It's going to take some time," Psaki said.

Customs and Border Patrol encountered 565 unaccompanied children along the southern border on average per day last week, up from an average of 313 children per day in the prior month, NBC News reported.

Over 4,200 children are being held in overcrowded Border Patrol facilities, with 2,943 of those children being held over the 72-hour legal limit, according to data obtained by NBC News.

Members of the Biden administration have avoided calling the situation at the border a crisis, even as prominent lawmakers including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have called the record numbers of unaccompanied children a humanitarian crisis.

The White House's comments come as NBC News reported Wednesday the Biden administration is restricting what Border Patrol can share with media.

Multiple news organizations, including NBC News, have been denied requests for access to or photos from inside the processing facilities holding unaccompanied migrant children.

Asked at the briefing about press access at Border Patrol facilities, Psaki said: "We remain committed to sharing with all of you data on the number of kids crossing the border, the steps we're taking, the work we're doing to open up facilities."

Psaki said the administration "fully support[s] transparency" and directed members of the press to the Department of Homeland Security for media requests.

The press secretary said Biden saw photos of the Border Patrol facilities when briefed on the situation by administration officials.

On a call with reporters Wednesday, administration officials said they are working to open new facilities for the children, increase emergency intake sites and reduce the time to unify a child with a family member or sponsor.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been directed to help shelter and transfer unaccompanied migrant children at the border, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Saturday.

The Biden administration on Friday ended a Trump-era policy allowing ICE to collect information on the immigration status of people who come forward to care for unaccompanied migrant children.

The administration on March 10 announced the reinstatement of an Obama-era program that would allow some Central American children to seek to legally enter the U.S. from their home countries.

The White House continues to blame the increased numbers of migrants encountered at the southern border on the practices of former President Donald Trump's administration.

"The situation on the ground is certainly challenging in part because we inherited a dismantled system that wasn't prepared for processing asylum requests that had left in place," Psaki said at the Wednesday briefing.

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