While the Homeland Security chief and White House press secretary both have insisted that there's no border crisis, today's briefing scheduled for President Joe Biden outlined the need for 20,000 beds to shelter an expected overflow of migrant children crossing America's southern border with Mexico.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Monday said from the White House podium that the current situation is no crisis to be concerned about, maintaining that the situation is "a challenge at the border that we are managing."
Then on Tuesday, Biden press secretary Jen Psaki doubled down. NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander cited how the Department of Homeland Security estimates there will be 117,000 unaccompanied child migrants crossing the United States-Mexico border this year. "That number seems like a crisis. [Mayorkas] said that isn't. How would we define a crisis?" asked Alexander at the press conference.
"Well, I'll leave that to the Secretary of Homeland Security to define. He said it was a challenge. It is a challenge," answered Psaki, before noting that the Biden administration is treating the detained children "humanely and safely" and processing the migrant minors through the system "as quickly as we can."
Later on, Fox News reporter Kristin Fisher questioned: "At what point does it become a crisis?" To which, Psaki replied: "Well, I would say I don't think we need to meet your bar of what we need to call it. We had the Secretary of Homeland Security yesterday conveying it's a challenge. We've provided numbers publicly about how serious that challenge is."
"We, of course, because we are approaching this humanely, and we are approaching this in a way where we will keep the children safe," Psaki continued, "but again we're going to approach this without labeling."
On the same day, the briefing set for Tuesday afternoon informed Biden that the number of migrant kids is on pace to exceed the all-time record by 45% and the administration doesn't have enough beds to accommodate, Axios reported.
A presentation created by the Domestic Policy Council spelled out the dimensions with almost 40 slides full of charts and details. This comes after the emergency facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas—the same 66-acre site and remnant of former President Donald Trump's time that was open for one month in summer 2019—was reactivated by the Biden administration to hold up to 700 teenagers ages 13 to 17 as the capacity of other locations are limited due to social distancing measures.
A Customs and Border Protection staffer told top Biden administration officials Thursday that the agency is projecting an upwards of 13,000 unaccompanied child migrants in May, sources told Axios last week. That projection would break the record set in 2019, which led to the infamous Trump-era "kids in cages" headlines, now underscoring the escalating crisis for the current White House.
Facing the growth, the Department of Health and Human Services—which oversees the network of child migrant shelters—is planning to change coronavirus protocols to adjust for an additional 2,000 minors. Even with new shelters and loosened COVID-19 restrictions, the Biden administration expects that authorities will fall short of accommodations by several thousand, Axios suggested.