White House press secretary Jen Psaki was forced to defend the Biden administration Monday as it faces plummeting poll numbers on it’s handling of the bourgeoning migrant crisis.
Speaking to reporters during a White House press briefing, Psaki was pressed about an Associated Press-NORC poll which found that 40 percent of Americans disapprove of how Biden is responding to the border situation, while just 24 percent approve.
Thirty-five percent did not have an opinion.
“If I read the poll correctly it also had 59 percent of Americans believing that unaccompanied children should be treated safely and be protected in that way, and 65 percent supported the reunification of families,” Psaki began.
“His focus right now is on expediting processing at the border, opening up additional facilities, addressing the root causes and restarting programs to incentivize the kids from applying from within their countries,” she continued.
The White House chief spokeswoman went on to say that it was inaccurate to argue that more Americans were not in favor of the administration’s response, despite that being what the poll showed, because of the nearly one-third who had no opinion.
The president was not focusing on the poll, Psaki said, instead giving his attention to ensuring that “we are protecting these kids. We are continuing to reassert to the region the border is not open.”
Asked about preliminary data from Customs and Border Protection which showed that US authorities caught more than 171,000 migrants at the southern border in March, the highest monthly total in two decades, Psaki said final numbers would paint a fuller picture.
That fuller picture, she explained, would show the number of migrants being turned away as well.
The 171,000 figure marks a staggering jump from the 78,442 migrants who crossed the border in January, when President Biden first took office.
The Biden administration’s undoing of former President Donald Trump’s border policies has prompted a flood of Central American and Mexican illegal migrants at the US border, including thousands of unescorted children.
Central Americans looking for refuge from the Northern Triangle countries — El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala — have taken these policy moves, as well as the overwhelmingly more welcoming tone from Democrats, as a sign that this president is inviting them to cross the border.
Insisting that the border was not facing a crisis, Mayorkas said in early March that the problems the agency faced should be blamed on the previous administration.
The data, however, overwhelmingly shows that migrants were flooding the border because they believed Biden would welcome them with open arms.
Late last month, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador blamed the new president for the crisis, arguing that the “expectations” he set left migrants with the perception that they would be let into the US.
While Psaki said they were committed to handling the crisis humanely, the administration has come under fire for its holding of unaccompanied minors in overcrowded Customs and Border Protection facilities for well over the 72-hour legal limit.
Facilities to house migrant children and families in numerous border states have become overrun in recent months as a result of the surge — which shows no sign of slowing down.
In an interview with Reuters last week, Oscar Escamilla, the acting executive officer for the Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, said the migrant processing center in Donna, Texas, is holding 4,100 migrants, and most of them are unaccompanied – four times its pre-coronavirus pandemic capacity.
He added that 2,000 of the minors have been held longer than the 72-hour limit and some of them have been in the facility for more than 15 days while they await placement in shelters overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services.