White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that the record surge of unaccompanied migrant children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border was a “cyclical issue.”
Partial transcript as follows:
KARL: I want to start with those images from the Donna detention center. I mean, obviously not acceptable, horrific. Not acceptable by the definition put forward by the president himself. What is the immediate problem to address this and when will it be fixed?
BEDINGFIELD: Well, the president is working as quickly as possible to address the situation. He’s using every possible avenue to ensure that we’re getting these kids out of Border Patrol custody and into HHS facilities as quickly as possible. You’ve seen him just this week announce that Fort Bliss, for example, and Lackland Air Force base are going to open up beds to bring these kids out of the Border Patrol facilities and into facilities that are better for temporary housing for them, but that’s a temporary solution. It’s a temporary solution. Ultimately what we need to do is address the root causes of migration. It’s something that President Biden did when he was vice president. He spent time in the Northern Triangle countries that people are migrating from, working to try to address the lack of infrastructure, the lack of programs, like for example, girls and boys clubs that allow these kids to be somewhere safe in their home country. So you saw last week, he asked Vice President Harris to take on dealing with the work and the diplomacy that’s necessary in the Northern Triangle to prevent people from making this journey in the first place. That’s the most important thing we can do to try to stem the tide.
And the other thing I would say, Jon, is what we see from the data is that these surges are cyclical. They’re cyclical. They’re not the result of one administration’s policies or another administration’s policies. They’re the result of, for example, weather disasters in the region. They’re the result of people fleeing poverty and violence. So we saw spikes in 2014. We saw them in 2019 when the Trump administration had perhaps the cruelest imaginable policies in place, family separation to try to deter people from coming, and they still came. So this is a cyclical issue. It’s one that President Biden has said is unacceptable to him and he’s working very quickly to address it.
KARL: But, Kate, there is something different here, and that is the unaccompanied minors, and we already have a record number of unaccompanied minors in U.S. custody. And in just a single day last week, there were 1,000 additional minors who were caught capturing — who were brought into U.S. custody coming across the border. These are record numbers already, and the seasonal surge that you’re talking about is only just beginning. This is not — I mean, in terms of unaccompanied numbers, this is not the same as it’s been. This is worse. Is it not?
BEDINGFIELD: Well, no. And if you look at the numbers, it’s not —
KARL: But the numbers —
BEDINGFIELD: — but that doesn’t mean it’s not a serious — but that doesn’t mean — but, Jon — I’m sorry. Go ahead.
KARL: No, but I’m saying these are already record numbers of unaccompanied minors, a thousand in a single day.
BEDINGFIELD: And it’s —
KARL: Already record numbers. It’s not the same —
BEDINGFIELD: And the president — and the president — and the — it is the — it is the same. These are the same kinds of surges that we’ve seen. But look, the important thing here, it’s not a question of whether it’s the same or not, the important thing here is the president has said this is unacceptable to him and he’s working to address it. And the way we do that is by finding temporary shelter for these kids who are coming without an adult and also by speeding up the process, by ensuring that the process is more efficient so that kids are able to move out of these Border Patrol facilities into temporary housing and then be put into the — into immigration processes. That’s what we’re working to try to do as quickly as possible.
But I think it’s also important to be clear that our policy hasn’t changed. The vast majority of people who arrive at our border we’re turning away under Title 42, under a health code that requires us to or allows us to turn people away in this period of COVID. So people should understand that the vast majority of people who show up at our border we’re turning away. For these unaccompanied children who arrive, the president is working as quickly as possible to move them into facilities that are acceptable, that are in and of themselves, short-term — short-term solutions, and he’s working to rebuild our system of diplomacy in the Northern Triangle so that people are not fleeing these countries coming to the United States. That’s how we ultimately solve the problem.
Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN