White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday defended the Biden administration’s reopening of a migrant facility in Texas for children, saying it is a “temporary reopening” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while also denying that they are housing “kids in cages.”
Psaki was asked by Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy about why the Biden administration was reopening a temporary facility for migrant children in Texas, in light of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris‘ past statements against facilities for migrant children while Donald Trump was president.
“Well, first, the policy of this administration […] is not to expel unaccompanied children who arrive at the border,” Psaki replied.
“The process—how it works—is that Customs and Border Control continue to transfer unaccompanied children to the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement,” she continued, adding that it “can take a couple of days.”
Because of COVID-19 safety protocols, Psaki said, the social distancing requirements and capacity limits at Refugee Resettlement Shelters have “been significantly reduced, because of course you can’t have a child in every bed,” adding that “[t]here needs to be spacing” in order to “ensure the health and safety of these kids”.
“So it’s a temporary reopening during COVID-19,” the press secretary said. “Our “intention is very much to close it, but we want to ensure that we can follow COVID protocols as unaccompanied minors come into the United States.”
“But it’s the same facility that was open for a month in the Trump administration,” Doocy responded. “Summer of 2019—that is when Joe Biden said, ‘Under Trump, there have been horrifying scenes at the border of kids being kept in cages.’ And Kamala Harris said, basically, babies in cages is a human rights abuse being committed by the United States government. So how is this any different than that?”
The quote from Biden comes from a Miami Herald op-ed published June 24, 2019 about his Latin America policy. During Trump’s presidency, Biden repeatedly criticized him for the facilities, saying during an October debate that migrant children were “ripped from their [parents’] arms and separated.”
In July 2019, when Harris was a senator and presidential candidate, she said that Trump “has pushed policies that’s been about putting babies in cages at the border in the name of security,” instead calling it “a human rights abuse being committed by the United States government.”
“We very much feel that way,” Psaki replied.
“These are facilities—let me be clear here,” Psaki said.
“One, there’s a pandemic going on. I’m sure you’re not suggesting that we have children right next to each other in ways that are not COVID safe, are you?” she asked Doocy.
“I’m suggesting that Kamala Harris said that […] putting people in this facility was a human rights abuse committed by the United States government,” he asserted. “And Joe Biden said, ‘Under Trump, there have been horrifying scenes of border’—’at the border of kids being kept in cages.'”
“Now it’s not under Trump,” Doocy added. “It’s under Biden.”
“This is not kids being kept in cages,” Psaki retorted.
“But it’s the same facility,” Doocy pressed her.
“This is a facility that was opened that’s going to follow the same standards as other HHS facilities. It is not a replication. Certainly not,” Psaki said. “That is never our intention of replicating the immigration policies of the past administration.
“But we are in a circumstance where we are not going to expel unaccompanied minors at the border. That would be inhumane. That is not what we are going to do here, as an administration,” she continued. “We need to find places that are safe under COVID protocols for kids to be, where they can have access to education, health and mental services consistent with their best interest. Our goal is for them to then be transferred to families or sponsors.”
“So this is our effort to ensure that kids are treated—are not close—in close proximity and that we are abiding by the health and safety standards that the government has been set out,” Psaki concluded.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”
Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.
Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.
At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.
“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”
“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”
This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”
During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.
“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”
“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”
Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.
Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.
“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”
Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.
“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”
He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.
Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”
“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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