The White House took questions on the condition and future of the thousands of Haitian immigrants camped out under the International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas, saying that while they don't know how many immigrants there are or how many have been processed and released, they are being tracked as part of the Biden administration's humanitarian immigration process.
Peter Doocy of Fox News asked how many Haitian immigrants have been returned to Haiti or their country of origin, and how many have been released into the US. This is a question that many White House correspondents wanted answered.
"Basic but very important question," Doocy said. "You're telling us that the DHS chief has the most recent numbers about how many of these Haitians under the bridge have been sent back and how many have been released into the US? The DHS chief is telling us that he doesn't know. So who else can we ask?"
"You can certainly ask the Department of Homeland Security," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki replied. "I am confident Peter, I am confident he wanted to have the most up-to-date numbers, and we will venture to get you those, I promised you, this afternoon."
"Is this an issue of not knowing?" Doocy pressed. "Or is this an issue of a lot more people are being released into the US than are being sent out?"
"That is certainly not the issue," Psaki said. "First, I think it's important to reiterate what I conveyed earlier about what the actual process is. Individuals are expelled under Title 42. If they can't be expelled under Title 42, they are put into a removal process. If they're put into a removal process, they're either transported to an ICE facility or released with a legal document. That legal document includes fingerprints, photos, phone numbers, and addresses the United States and a background check. That's the process that transpires that's a part of our immigration process, regardless of where you're coming from."
"You keep using Title 42 to defend this administration's immigration policies. That is a Trump-era regulation," Doocy said, looking for clarity. "You guys came in saying that the Trump-era immigration policy was very inhumane."
"Title 42 is not an immigration policy," Psaki said. "It is a health authority, because we're in the middle of a pandemic. The Trump administration approach to immigration was inhumane and was immoral. That's why we need to put a new policy in place. And we need Congress to pass that policy."
"Unified control, Democratic control of Congress, many months in office have not even tried," Doocy said, noting that the Biden administration has had a willing, Democrat-majority Congress since taking office and has not undertaken to create this new immigration policy.
"That's not actually true," Psaki contradicted. "There's been, Peter, just to just factual here. There's been a bill proposed first day in office. Currently, it was proposed as a part of the steps are proposed as part of the reconciliation process. Right. The parliamentarian rejected that proposal, they're going back and proposing new options. President supports that he would like to see immigration reform, pass into law, more humane processes."
Psaki was speaking about the Democrat-led plan in Congress to put immigration policy and new legislation regards immigration into a massive, $3.5 trillion spending bill. That plan was rejected on procedural grounds by the Senate parliamentarian.
Doocy then wanted to know if "President Biden's ever been to the southern border."
"In his life? I will have to get look back in my history books and check the times he's been to the southern border—" Psaki said.
"We have been looking all morning," Doocy said, "and we cannot find any record of him visiting the border as President, Vice President, Senator or even as a concerned citizen. Why would that be?"
"I can check and see when the last time or when he may have been but tell me more about what you're asking," Psaki said, looking for clarity.
"Because this is a president who makes a point when there are disasters in this country like a wildfire or hurricane to go and see for himself firsthand what the needs are of the local community so that he can have an informed POV to make policy. Why doesn't he do that? Why doesn't he go down to Del Rio, Texas and see what's going on?" Doocy asked.
"Well, first of all, Peter, I think the situation at the border is the result of a broken system. And the President certainly relies on his experience. So whether it was the work he did to address root causes as Vice President, his efforts when he was in the Senate to support comprehensive immigration reform, a step that at the time were being done and worked toward in a bipartisan way, something that certainly we think should be the case today. He uses all of his experiences to inform how he governs how he approaches challenges. And certainly, he looks again at the last four years and the separation of children who are ripped from the arms of their parents as a way he does not want to proceed. So all of his experiences and his time in office, whether vice president or Senate inform his approach to issues."
Psaki had been asked about the process facing immigrants in the US, and she said that "DHS Department of Homeland Security continues to expel migrants under the CDCs, Title 42 authority... And this has been the case and been our policy and process for migrants coming from any country around the world."
She said that those "who do not have a legal basis to remain are placed in either expedited or formal removal proceedings. And individuals who are not immediately removed or either place an alternative to detention, or transported to an ICE facility if they are placed in alternative to detention. There's also a process required, a legal document, a document they would have, as a part of that process."
As to that document, she explained that "Border Patrol agents collect biometric and biographic information, fingerprints, photos, phone numbers and an address in United States and also run a background check as a part of the process. And those who do not report like anyone who's in our country without legal status are subject to removal by ICE."