Don’t say it!
Whatever you say, Jen Psaki, don’t say there is a “crisis” at the border.
There is absolutely no crisis at the border. Got it?
Call it a Freudian slip, that’s just what the White House press secretary did.
After uttering the forbidden term, the very next words out of her mouth at Thursday’s press briefing were not, “Let me circle back with you on that.”
Specifically, the hapless, verbally challenged Psaki said: “There have been expectations set outside of, unrelated to, any vaccine doses or requests for them, that they would be partners in dealing with the crisis on the border.”
For weeks, Biden administration officials, as opposed to Biden himself, have scrupulously avoided using the word “crisis” to describe the migrant surge on the southern border. Biden makes his own mistakes. He can’t help himself.
But the expert on communication, Psaki, responding to a question about U.S. plans to lend doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Mexico, and whether the U.S. made any demands in return for those doses, including increased cooperation on immigration matters, actually, for once instant, told the truth – by mistake.
Later, when another reporter asked her about her use of the term “crisis,” she immediately reverted to “challenges” – the word the White House has been using when repeatedly pressed on the most accurate way to refer to the growing problem.
“When you were talking about how to go about diplomatic negotiations between the United States and Mexico, you said ‘crisis on the border,'” the reporter said.
That’s when she came to her senses and corrected herself and resumed, well, lying.
“Challenges on the border,” Psaki quickly tried to correct him, denying she intended to convey any change in the administration’s official view.
Psaki has fielded dozens of questions on whether the situation at the border amounts to a crisis over the past few weeks. But the pressure has been rising. She was bound to be tested as the situation at the border got more out of hand.
As the number of people crossing the border reached a confirmed 100,000 and unaccompanied minors who are not turned away reached 15,000, Psaki has been adamant that the word “crisis” should not be used.
You could all but hear her chanting, “It’s not a crisis. Don’t call it a crisis. The border is not a crisis.”
“Look, I don’t think we need to sit here and put new labels on what we have already conveyed is challenging, what we have conveyed is a top priority for the president, what our policy teams are working on every single day,” she said March 9.
She was lucky to get that answer out. You could just imagine how it got tougher every day.
When Psaki ultimately said it, her face was as red as her hair.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas steadfastly refused to refer to the situation as a “crisis” while testifying on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
“Given the tremendous rise and surge of individuals coming to the border, wouldn’t it be fair to call it a crisis?” Rep. John Katko of New York, the ranking Republican member on the House Homeland Security Committee, asked Mayorkas.
“I’m not spending any time on the language that we use,” Mayorkas said. “I am spending time on the operational response to the situation at the border.”
Mayorkas has also tried to use the word “challenge” to describe what Joe Biden had termed enthusiastically a “surge” in people coming to the border. Mayorkas termed it, more delicately, “an influx.”
Asked if he believes there is a crisis at the border, Mayorkas said on March 1, “I think the answer is no. I think there is a challenge at the border that we are managing, and we have our resources dedicated to managing it. The men and women of the Department of Homeland Security are working around the clock, seven days a week, to ensure that we do not have a crisis at the border, that we manage the challenge, as acute is the challenge is.”
The White House’s coordinator for the southern border, and former ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, has also tried to avoid calling the increasing number of migrants a crisis.
“I’m not trying to be cute here, but I think the fact of the matter is, we have to do what we do regardless of what anybody calls the situation,” she said March 10.
The administration’s effort to minimize concern about immigration comes as the House is voting on bills that would provide pathways to citizenship for certain undocumented farmworkers as well as so-called “Dreamers,” or illegal aliens who arrived in the U.S. as children. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested the plan to give legal status to undocumented immigrants would only encourage more illegal entries.
“The House is voting on immigration bills. Are they leaping into action to repair the crisis? No – they’re taking up an amnesty plan that would create a special new pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants working in certain industries. So, to summarize: The administration can’t admit they’ve caused a crisis; they have yet to address the crisis; and House Democrats are backing policies that would only exacerbate the wrong incentive,” McConnell said Thursday.
As a way of avoiding more questions about the border during this “challenge,” the Biden administration put a lid on press releases, information and reporter ride-alongs with the Border Patrol.
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