"There's a pandemic going on," Psaki told the reporter. "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?"
Psaki also addressed migrant parents who might be considering sending their children across the U.S.-Mexico border, saying "this is not the time to come."
U.S. officials have said that anyone who seeks to enter the U.S. and does not have an active Migrant Protection Protocols case, a Trump-era program, will be immediately expelled under COVID-era rules.
- Why is the Biden administration reopening a temporary facility for migrant children in Texas?
JEN 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, as people need to understand the process.
But, because of COVID-19 protocols, the social distancing requirements, the capacity of 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 the 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-- COVID protocols as we-- as unaccompanied minors come into the United States.
- But it's the same facility that was open for a month in the Trump administration. Summer 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?
JEN PSAKI: We very much feel that way. And these are facilities-- 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?
- 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.
JEN PSAKI: This is not kids being kept in cages. 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 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 interests. 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 been set out.