FOX News White House correspondent Peter Doocy took on White House press secretary Jen Psaki for previous comments made by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on housing minor migrants that show up unaccompanied by an adult at the U.S.-Mexico border. At Tuesday's White Hosue briefing, Doocy hammered Psaki over statements made by Biden and Harris under the Trump presidency describing the same facility being used now as "kids in cages."
PETER DOOCY, FOX NEWS: Thank you, Jen. 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?
WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY JENNIFER PSAKI: Well, I think he was being asked as the Attorney General — the future Attorney General. I think he’s looking ahead to be confirmed of the United States. And if he wants to make considerations independently, he can certainly do that. But the President has 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.
Q And, to that point, why is the Biden administration reopening a temporary facility for migrant children in Texas?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, the policy of this administration — as you all 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, as people need to understand the process.
But because of COVID-19 protocols, the — like 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 while they are safely — 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, but we want to ensure that we can follow COVID saf- — COVID protocols, as we — as unaccompanied minors come into the United States.
Q 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 at the border of kids being 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?
MS. PSAKI: We very much feel that way. And these —
Q So if —
MS. PSAKI: These are facilities — let me be — let me be clear here. One, there’s 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?
Q I’m 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 of border” — “at the border of kids being kept in cages.”
Now it’s not under Trump. It’s under Biden.
MS. PSAKI: This is not kids being kept in cages. This is —
Q But it’s the same facility.
MS. PSAKI: This is kids — 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’s — that is never our intention of replicating the 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, where they can have access to education, health and mental services consistent with their 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 close — in close proximity and that we are abiding by the health and safety standards that the government has been set out.