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White House press secretary Jen Psaki said she had no “response” from President Biden on Wednesday to heartbreaking video of a crying boy apparently abandoned at the US-Mexico border — or to whether either Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the crossing.
During her daily press briefing, Psaki was asked if Biden had seen and would comment on the clip of the boy, who appears to be about 10, crying to a US Border Patrol agent that he was “afraid” after being ditched by a group of fellow migrants and left to fend for himself overnight in the desert.
“I don’t have any response from the president directly,” said Psaki. “What I can convey is, for any of us who have seen that video, it is heartbreaking.
“It’s a reminder of how treacherous the journey is,” she continued. “And it is a reminder of how important and imperative it is that we put in place reforms to our immigration system, that we convey clearly how dangerous this journey is, and that we take steps, like the Central American Minors program” to better care for young migrants.
Often-unaccompanied children are among the tens of thousands of migrants who have flocked to the border since Biden was inaugurated and began easing the more restrictive immigration policies of his predecessor, President Donald Trump.
The youths have ended up confined to cramped, jail-like border detention facilities for days at a time while awaiting transfer to federal shelters elsewhere.
Amid the crisis, both Biden and Harris have pledged to visit the border, but neither has followed through.
“I don’t have any trips to outline or preview,” said Psaki on Wednesday, when asked why the visits haven’t been made. “What our focus is on is solutions, and ensuring we have more beds, we’re making processing more efficient and effective, and that we are addressing this in a humane way that keeps these kids as safe as we possibly can.”
Last month, Biden publicly tasked Harris with addressing the chaos, only for the White House to later clarify that Harris would actually be working to fix “root causes” driving immigration in the long run, not the ongoing crossing crisis.
But a review of Harris’ work in recent weeks shows little in the way of concrete effort on the situation.
Psaki insisted Wednesday, however, that the vice president is intent on cracking the problem.
“It’s absolutely an issue that she remains committed to, is in the lead on,” said Psaki. “Being responsible and in the lead on the Northern Triangle is working with these countries in the region, addressing the root causes, working with them on how we can address issues like long-term food insecurity, drought, the COVID-19 pandemic, hurricanes, etcetera. That’s what she’s focused on.”
At another point in the briefing, Psaki did not rule out the possibility that additional construction could take place on the border wall, even though Biden has long criticized the Trump pet project and vowed to halt it in its tracks if elected.
It was previously reported that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had privately expressed interest in plugging “gaps” in the wall.
Psaki on Wednesday left open the possibility that construction was not done for good, but argued that the administration’s hands are tied legally because funding had already been committed to the project prior to Biden taking office.
“While construction remains paused, there is a review underway taking a look at the funds that had been allocated,” she said. “There are some components of the wall that had already been allocated the funding to continue building by Congress.
“So we’re working within what is allowable,” she said. “We don’t believe the wall is an answer. We have never believed the wall is an answer to addressing the immigration challenges at the border.”
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