White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday was forced to again fend off questions about how the Biden administration’s detention camps for child immigrants differ from those that Democrats including President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris decried during the Trump administration.
Psaki was asked how she felt about the widely adopted term “kids in containers” — as opposed to the Trump-era Democratic accusation of “kids in cages” — for the Biden administration centers while saying she couldn’t comment on progressive Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rebuking the reopening of the detention facilities.
“I think the difficulty is, I haven’t seen the full context of the quote or interview — of the tweet that was, that she shared,” Psaki said of the New York Democrat’s criticism.
Ocasio-Cortez, an influential figure among the Democratic Party’s left wing, said that the Biden administration was wrong to reopen a detention center in Carrizo Springs, Texas, along with a similar center in Homestead, Fla., that Vice President Kamala Harris protested in 2019 when it was managed by the Trump administration.
Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Tuesday: “This is not okay, never has been okay, never will be okay – no matter the administration or party.”
AOC added: “It’s only 2 mos into this admin & our fraught, unjust immigration system will not transform in that time. That’s why bold reimagination is so impt. DHS shouldn’t exist, agencies should be reorganized, ICE gotta go, ban for-profit detention, create climate refugee status & more.”
But Psaki said Wednesday that it was essential to open the facilities because “we only have a couple of choices.”
She side-stepped a reporter’s question about whether she would accept the term “kids in containers” in a nod to pods set up in Carrizo Springs.
“We have a number of unaccompanied minors children who are coming into the country without their families,” Psaki said. “We have a couple of options: We can send them back home and due a dangerous journey back we’re not doing that either — that is also putting them at risk. We can quickly transfer them from CBP to these HHS run facilities — that’s one option. Or we can put them with families and sponsors without any vetting,” she said.
“We’ve chosen the middle option…. We had to expand and open additional facilities, because there was not enough space in the existing facilities.”
Psaki said that only unaccompanied children will be placed in the detention centers and that children won’t be separated from parents if they arrive at the US border as a family unit. That was done under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting all adults who illegally cross the border.
Democrats blasted former President Donald Trump’s administration for placing “kids in cages,” but the White House denies doing essentially the same thing. Psaki said Tuesday that the camps are opening to ensure proper spacing during the COVID-19 pandemic.