White House says it needs ‘to work more’ on migrants entering US

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Thousands of illegal immigrants are being set free across the country as the crisis on the southern border escalates — and the White House admitted Monday it isn’t doing enough to discourage people from seeking unlawful entry to the United States.

Speaking to reporters during a press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged the failures after being pressed about the administration’s handling of the situation.

“I would say it’s clear we need to work more on getting the message out and being very clear, now is not the time to come,” said Psaki, before reiterating the Biden administration’s claim that “the majority of people who come to the border are turned away.”

“Yes, we have changed the policies of the last administration as it relates to unaccompanied children, but the majority of families, adults, the vast, vast majority are turned away at the border. And that is a message that clearly we need to continue to look for means and ways of getting out, you know, more and more out to the region,” she continued.

Jen Psaki said the Biden administration needs to make it more clear that "now is not the time to come."
Jen Psaki said the Biden administration needs to make it clearer that “now is not the time to come.”
Alex Brandon/AP

Her comments followed the revelation that under President Biden, the Department of Homeland Security will convert two immigrant family detention centers in South Texas into Ellis Island-style rapid processing facilities, and has already emptied a facility in Pennsylvania. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement wrote in a court filing last Friday that while families continue to be detained at its locations in Karnes City and Dilley, adults and children are all released within 72 hours.

A group of migrants wearing T-shirts that read "Biden, please let us in" kneel and pray at the border crossing in San Ysidro, Mexico.
A group of migrants wearing T-shirts that read “Biden, please let us in” kneel and pray at the border crossing in San Ysidro, Mexico.
Dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

Migrant families previously held at a third facility in Leesport, Pennsylvania, have all already been released, according to the ICE disclosure made Friday.

Despite establishing multiple new tent-style shelters and loosening COVID-19 restrictions, the Domestic Policy Council is telling Biden that the administration will fall short of its needs by a couple thousand.

The number of unaccompanied minors and families arriving at the border this year “are expected to be the highest numbers observed in over 20 years,” senior ICE official Russell Hott wrote in an email sent to staff members on Thursday, according to a Washington Post report.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks to reporters at the White House on March 8, 2021.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks to reporters on March 8, 2021.
Patrick Semansky/AP

Even as the two facilities in southern Texas are transformed into rapid processing centers, that “may not be sufficient to keep pace with apprehensions,” Hott said in the email reviewed by the Washington Post.

Those who cannot be housed at those centers even for 72 hours will be transferred to nearby hotels.

Migrant families walk toward a Customs and Border Patrol processing center near Mission, Texas.
Migrant families walk toward a Customs and Border Patrol processing center near Mission, Texas.
Sergio Flores/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump’s departure has undone key border initiatives. It has set off a new caravan to the US border of Central American and Mexican migrants, which includes thousands of unescorted children.

In his first month, Biden ended the construction of Trump’s signature US-Mexico border wall and began to end the “Remain in Mexico” policy under which about 71,000 Central American asylum applicants were awaiting rulings in Mexico.

He issued an order affirming the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives work permits and protection from deportation to people brought illegally to the US as minors, and proposed legislation that would create a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the US.

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