WATCH: Doocy Demolishes Psaki on Biden WH’s Immigration Double Standard

A day after struggling with questions about embattled OMB Director nominee Neera Tanden, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki found herself being torched Tuesday by Fox News’s Peter Doocy about the administration’s immigration policies and specifically the reopening of a detention center both President Biden and Vice President Harris derided as an abomination under the Trump regime.

Worse yet for Psaki, Doocy drew follow-ups from CBS’s Ed O’Keefe (who asked an excellent question earlier in the briefing about the Keystone XL pipeline) and McClatchy’s Francesca Chambers. Later on, she faced stiff questions from New York Post’s Steven Nelson on drones and government surveillance.

 

 

Doocy began with a basic question concerning whether the Biden administration will decide that illegally crossing the border isn’t a crime seeing as how Attorney General designee Merrick Garland said during his confirmation hearing that he hasn’t “thought about that question.”

Psaki replied that, if it’s something Garland wanted to look at, he’d be welcome to do that as the Department of Homeland Security “take[s] a fresh look at prioritization and who is detained and who is sent back home.”

That prompted Doocy to fire off a follow-up: “And to that point, why is the Biden administration reopening a temporary facility for migrant children in Texas?”

As usual, Psaki deflected, emphasizing that “the policy of this administration…is not to expel unaccompanied children who arrive at the border” with the “Customers and Border Control” (when it should be Customers and Border Protection) working with HHS being complicated by the coronavirus pandemic requiring more “spacing to protect the kids who are living in those facilities for a short period of time.”

Doocy then brought up past Biden and Harris comments about this particular facility and the notion of the Biden administration bringing back kids in cages.

Needless to say, Psaki was not amused by Doocy’s truth bombs and resorted to condescension. Click “expand” to see the rest of this glorious exchange:

DOOCY: But it’s the same facility that was open for a month in the Trump administration. Summer of 2019, that is when Joe Biden said under Trump, there have been horrifying scenes t the border of kids 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 and these —

DOOCY: So, if it’s —

PSAKI: — these are facilities — let me — no, let me be clear. One, there is 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 am 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. 

DOOCY: But it’s the same facility.

PSAKI: 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 is never our intention of replicating 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 they can have access to education, health and mental services consistent with our best interest. Our goal is for them to then be transferred to families or sponsors. So, this is our effort to ensure that kids are treated — are not in close proximity and that we are abiding by the health and safety standards that the government has set out. 

Doocy briefly pivoted to climate change and inquired about whether Biden “share[s]” climate envoy John Kerry’s belief that humans have nine years left to save the Earth from climate change. Unsurprisingly, Psaki offered a non-answer.

O’Keefe then interjected to have a second turn so he could follow-up on Doocy’s questions. 

Citing CBS reporting showed “at least 179 kids” spent more than the legal maximum three days in a CBP facility, O’Keefe stated that has left immigration advocates (read: illegal immigration activists) feeling as though the administration’s policies thus far aren’t “much different than what the Trump administration was doing.”

Psaki disagreed, so O’Keefe pivoted to whether the White House’s view has changed that people should not be making the trip north to gain entrance into the U.S. and led to Psaki reiterating that while “people are fleeing prosecution,” “[t]his is not the time to come.”

A few reporters later, Chambers pointed out that another reopened facility was the (controversial) Homestead-Miami area and was a privately-run immigration facility, which went against Biden’s desire to close all privately-run detention centers.

As mentioned earlier, O’Keefe used Tuesday’s virtual Canada-U.S. gathering to wonder what the White House’s message would be to the 11,000 Keystone-related workers who’ve now lost their jobs. As typical for lefty environmentalists, Psaki refused to show an ounce of concern for them (click “expand”):

O’KEEFE: On Keystone XL, I know that’s one issue that will come up today. Obviously, the Canadian prime minister feels different than the President does. Administration officials said this decision, which was a day one decision, had essentially used the Obama administration’s assessment as a reason to go back. I believe that was what they said. There was no other reason to explore it. There is an economic effect, though, of course, now. 11,000 people had jobs connected to the United States at least. What does the White House say to those people, to the Canadian workers, who are now going to be out of a job if this pipeline is indeed shut down? 

PSAKI: Well, let me first say that it was the Obama/Biden administration when the assessment was done and done by the State department at the time. And the President was very consistent through the campaign and even before then about his view that — that it should be revoked. And he had conversations, of course, with the prime minister about it. The prime minister raised his concerns directly with the president, has previously and he’s, of course, welcome to today. But the president has made clear this is a commitment he has made in the past that it’s not in the interest of the united States and that we want to try to address our climate crisis while also creating good-paying union jobs. And he has a — he has a plan. He has talked about his plan on the campaign trail to create millions of clean energy jobs and he is eager to continue to work with the policy team and outside stakeholders and experts on delivering on that in the months ahead. But he believes you can do both and he has been consistent about his opposition to the Keystone pipeline.

Nelson came towards the end of the briefing, noticing that Team Biden appeared to be on track to bring back “the Obama era so-called kill list policy” for drone strikes and then asking whether the White House would commit “to not secretly reinterpreting laws to expand domestic surveillance” to prevent future domestic terror attacks like the January 6 Capitol siege.

To see the relevant transcript from February 23’s briefing, click “expand.”

White House Press Briefing
February 23, 2021
12:15 p.m. Eastern

ED O’KEEFE: On Keystone XL, I know that’s one issue that will come up today. Obviously, the Canadian prime minister feels different than the President does. Administration officials said this decision, which was a day one decision, had essentially used the Obama administration’s assessment as a reason to go back. I believe that was what they said. There was no other reason to explore it. There is an economic effect, though, of course, now. 11,000 people had jobs connected to the United States at least. What does the White House say to those people, to the Canadian workers, who are now going to be out of a job if this pipeline is indeed shut down? 

JEN PSAKI: Well, let me first say that it was the Obama/Biden administration when the assessment was done and done by the State department at the time. And the President was very consistent through the campaign and even before then about his view that — that it should be revoked. And he had conversations, of course, with the prime minister about it. The prime minister raised his concerns directly with the president, has previously and he’s, of course, welcome to today. But the president has made clear this is a commitment he has made in the past that it’s not in the interest of the united States and that we want to try to address our climate crisis while also creating good-paying union jobs. And he has a — he has a plan. He has talked about his plan on the campaign trail to create millions of clean energy jobs and he is eager to continue to work with the policy team and outside stakeholders and experts on delivering on that in the months ahead. But he believes you can do both and he has been consistent about his opposition to the Keystone pipeline.

(….)

12:21 p.m. Eastern

PETER DOOCY: A few on immigration really quick. Merrick Garland was asked yesterday if illegal entry at the border should remain a crime and he said “I haven’t thought about that question.” Does President Biden believe that illegal entry at the border should remain a crime moving forward? 

PSAKI: Well, I think he was being asked as the attorney general — future attorney general. I think he is looking ahead to be confirmed of the United States [sic]. And if he wants to make considerations independently, he can certainly do that. But the President’s spoken to this and we believe in abiding by our laws. As you know, there, of course, is a process underway at the Department of Homeland Security to re — to take a fresh look at prioritization and who is detained and who is sent back home, so that is something happening from the Department of Homeland Security. But again, if he’s going to lead an independent Justice Department, it is his prerogative to take a look at, you know, any policies under their purview.

DOOCY: And to that point, why is the Biden administration reopening a temporary facility for migrant children in Texas? 

PSAKI: 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, because people need to understand the process. But because of COVID-19 protocols, the social-distancing requirements, the capacity at 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 before they are safely placed with families and sponsors, so it’s a temporary reopening during covid-19. Our intention is very much to close it. We want to ensure we can follow covid protocols as we — as we — 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 of 2019, that is when Joe Biden said under Trump, there have been horrifying scenes t the border of kids 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 and these —

DOOCY: So, if it’s —

PSAKI: — these are facilities — let me — no, let me be clear. One, there is 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 am 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. 

DOOCY: But it’s the same facility.

PSAKI: 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 is never our intention of replicating 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 they can have access to education, health and mental services consistent with our best interest. Our goal is for them to then be transferred to families or sponsors. So, this is our effort to ensure that kids are treated — are not in close proximity and that we are abiding by the health and safety standards that the government has set out. 

DOOCY: Just quickly on climate. Last week, the climate envoy John Kerry said there are only nine years left to save the world from climate change. Does president Biden share that assessment?: Nine years? 

PSAKI: I don’t have a new timeline to give you from here. I can confirm for you, though, that the president agrees with former Secretary Kerry that it’s a crisis, that time is of the essence. We need to act quickly and that’s why climate is a key part of his agenda. [TO O’KEEFE] Go ahead.

O’KEEFE: I want to —

PSAKI: Oh.

O’KEEFE: — follow up on immigration, but I know Kaitlan’s been waiting so —

PSAKI: Go ahead, Kaitlan.

O’KEEFE: Go ahead, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS: I can wait for your immigration question.

O’KEEFE: Okay, yeah, because picking up on this discussion about the HHS facility versus Customs and Border Protection facilities. There is a law that says you have to get those kids out of those facilities — CBP facility —

PSAKI: yeah.

O’KEEFE: — in three days. 

PSAKI: Yes.

O’KEEFE: But data we obtained said that there were at least 179 kids who spent more than three days in those kinds of facilities in January, despite an internal policy dictating all minors should get out in three days. Immigration attorneys, attorneys that work with these kids, advocates have seen all of this and are saying this isn’t that much better than what’s going on before. In regards to the HHS — the use of the HHS facility, they say it’s a step backwards. So, there’s the criticism that was made by candidates Biden and Harris and then there’s the criticism from some of these attorneys now 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: Let me say that you are right. There is a 72 hour time frame where kids should be transferred from CBP facilities to HHS-sponsored facilities. And that certainly is our objectives. In terms of the specific kids 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 sponsor 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.

O’KEEFE: And I asked you a few weeks ago, when you guys announced the outlines of the immigration executive orders, what is the message to people in Central America —

PSAKI: Yeah.

O’KEEFE: — who are thinking of making this trip? You gave an answer then. I guess I’d ask you, is the administration, is the U.S. government doing enough to make clear to that part of the world it’s not worth making this kind of a trip?

PSAKI: Well, we can always do more. I think the challenge here, as you know, is that people are fleeing prosecution. They’re fleeing difficult economic circumstances and hardship. There hasn’t been enough time to do enough to impact the circumstances on the ground in a number of these communities. And obviously, as these unaccompanied kids come to the border, it’s completely heartbreaking. We’re not going to expel these kids. We want to process and get them into facilities as quickly as possible. But certainly, we’re always looking for ways to do more to communicate more effectively and clearly with communities in the region about why this is not the time to come. We need more time to put in place a humane and moral immigration system. 

O’KEEFE: So, parents should not be sending their kids northward? 

PSAKI: Absolutely not. This is not the time to come. We have not had the time to put in place an immigration system, an immigration policy. We don’t have the processing we need at the border. Obviously, we’re continuing to struggle with facilities to ensure we are abiding by COVID protocols, so this is definitely not the time to come. 

(….)

12:37 p.m. Eastern

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS: And on the topic of immigration, the Biden administration is reopening a detention center in Florida formally known as the Homestead Detention Facility. The administration plans to house migrant teens in that facility. Will that also be a temporary emergency center, like the one you were discussing before. 

PSAKI: I’d have to talk to the Department of homeland security about that. I would certainly send you to them to talk to them more specifically and directly about it.

CHAMBERS: It’s was also privately run before, which is part of the question, is if — if whether or not the Biden administration plans to have it privately managed again given the pledge by the President to close down privately-run detention facilities.

PSAKI: Absolutely. I know you asked this question before. I’d be happy to connect you with someone at the department of homeland security. They obviously oversee those facilities, so they are best prepared to answer any questions on that.

(….)

 p.m. Eastern

STEVEN NELSON: Yesterday, the White House publicly confirmed that Precedent Biden had mandated that he got full visibility on potential drone strikes overseas. This sounds like a potential — or it sounds like a resumption of the Obama era so-called kill list policy. I was hoping that you could tell us what President Biden sees as his guiding principles on deciding whether to allow a strike or not.

PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything more for you on that from the podium.

(….)

12:48 p.m. Eastern

NELSON: Another one. The focus — one of the focuses today on the Hill is on the Capitol riot, so I wanted to follow up on that. There has been talk about need for greater surveillance of domestic threats. After 9/11, of course, the government secretly reinterpreted the patriot act as allowing the dragnet collection of our phone records. Is the Biden administration committed to not secretly reinterpreting laws to expand domestic surveillance? 

PSAKI: I think the President’s spoken to this in the past, including when he was Vice President. Our focus right now is on, of course, supporting the hearings that are happening on the Hill. And we will remain engaged with members of Congress about how we can work together to address gaps and how to prevent it from happening in the future. We also have a process that’s underway and a review from our national security team on the domestic violent extremism. And when that process is concluded, I’m sure there’ll be recommendations made on policies that should be put into place.

NELSON: This administration has emphasized transparency. There would be transparency on any additional surveillance of domestic threats that would not be secretly interpreted?

PSAKI; I think that’s fair to say.

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