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White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday confirmed reporting by the New York Post that the Biden administration has been quietly flying underage illegal immigrants from the border to New York in the dead of night.
During a press briefing, a reporter asked why the administration is “flying thousands of migrants from the border to Florida and New York in the middle of the night.”
“Well I’m not sure it’s in the middle of the night but let me tell you what’s happening here. It is our —” Psaki said, before the reporter interrupted with various “very early” morning times that flights have taken place.
“Here we are talking about early flights, earlier than you might like to take a flight,” Psaki said. “It is our legal responsibility to safely care for unaccompanied children until they can be swiftly unified with a parent or a vetted sponsor and that’s something we take seriously.”
She said the administration has a “moral obligation” to carry out the reunification process and noted that the Office of Refugee Resettlement has been facilitating travel for children in its custody to their families or sponsors across the country in recent weeks.
While Psaki emphasized that the administration is legally obligated to care for children, the Post report indicates that some of the migrants appeared to be men in their 20’s.
Psaki confirmed the New York Post’s reporting that unaccompanied children were flown into Westchester County Airport and said they were “en route to their final destination to be reunified with their parents or vetted sponsor.”
She added that the unaccompanied minors can be seen traveling through several states as part of the reunification process, not just New York.
Psaki’s acknowledgement comes one day after the report detailed how the administration had been flying underage illegal immigrants to New York late a night for more than two months in an effort to resettle the tens of thousands of migrants taken into custody at the border in recent weeks.
Border Patrol agents encountered 37,805 unaccompanied minors at the border in July and August alone.
The paper’s analysis of online flight-tracking data suggests that some 2,000 migrants have arrived at the Westchester airport in suburban New York on 21 flights since August 8. Many of the planes landed between midnight and 6:30 a.m., when a voluntary curfew is in effect.
The report describes late-night flights arriving under the cover of dark, filled with children and teens. New York Post reporters watched two planes land at the airport, where most of the passengers who deplaned seemed to be children and teens, with a small number appearing to be men in their 20s.
Many of the migrants were then seen meeting with relatives or sponsors in New Jersey or being dropped off at the Syosset, Long Island campus of MercyFirst, a nonprofit sponsored by the Catholic Sisters of Mercy. MercyFirst provides housing and services for “children and adolescents who are the victims of societal problems,” according to its website, which adds that it has a contract to supply the federal government with residential services for “immigrant youth.”
Someone familiar with the situation reportedly told the outlet that underage migrants usually arrive carrying backpacks and are bused to locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, upstate Newburgh, and Bridgeport and Danbury in Connecticut.
The report adds that many of the flights from Texas first touch down in Jacksonville, Fla., before continuing to Westchester. On Saturday, reporters saw a Boeing 737-700 land shortly after 10 p.m. at Jacksonville International Airport. A group of ten to 15 people got onto a charter bus near a quiet cargo terminal and traveled two hours to Twin Oaks Academy, a juvenile detention center in the Apalachicola National Forest near Tallahassee.
Former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican candidate for governor, told the paper that smaller planes first began arriving in April. Early on, the flights were not “as frequent,” he said.
He detailed a news conference he held at the airport in August during which he saw a flight arrive with at least 50 to 70 migrants, most of whom appeared to be men older than 20. The migrants boarded a bus that pulled up next to the airstairs, obscuring the view of people boarding it.
However, the White House told the New York Post that the flights only carry children and teens.