During Tuesday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki was challenged by a Canadian Reporter on the role the White House’s messaging is playing at the border. Journalist Richard Latendresse challenged Psaki on the Biden Administration’s use of language that seems to signal to migrants that they are welcome to come to the U.S., just not right now.
Latendresse posed the question, “You keep repeating, ‘This is not the time to come.’ Isn’t that sending the signal that there will be a time to come? ‘Just wait.'” Psaki, who had used the phrase, “This is not the time to come” several times during the press briefing, lashed out at the Trump Administration, as she called the immigration policy under Donald Trump “immoral and ineffective.” She then alluded to the need to clean up Trump’s policies as the cause of the current challenge at the border.
When we say, “It’s not the time to come now,” the reason is: This is a— we are still digging our way out of a dismantled, immoral, and ineffective immigration policy that was being implemented by the last administration that was largely based around funding for a border wall. It’s going to take us some time.
And we do want to put in place — modernize the immigration system, which means investing in smart security, which means creating a pathway to citizenship, which means funding and supporting efforts to address the root causes in the region. And we — as a part of that, we want to ensure that there is effective processing at the border.Jen Psaki, Press Secretary under Joe Biden
After blaming the previous administration for their “challenge” at the border, Psaki never answered the question posed by Latendresse. Additionally, the Biden Administration has continued to refuse to admit that the situation at the southern border is a “crisis,” stating that labeling the influx of migrants is unproductive and unnecessary. During the Trump Administration, many in Washington D.C. and the media continuously called the situation at the border a “crisis,” which could explain the hesitation to use the term now.
“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,” Psaki stated.
The Biden Administration has also changed the wording of border apprehensions, choosing instead to call the apprehensions “encounters.” While the White House plays a semantics game, it seems their messaging is exacerbating the border issues and causing unnecessary confusion.
Adding to the lack of clarity, during Wednesday’s press conference, the Southern Border coordinator, Ambassador Roberta Jacobson, created an unforced error. Jacobson stated that the border was closed and it was not time to come to the U.S., but then inaccurately translated this message in Spanish, to “la frontera no está cerrada, or “the border is not closed.” Jacobson later corrected herself and stated in Spanish that the border is closed.
The Biden Administration’s messaging issues have led to an influx of thousands of unaccompanied minors and other migrants in the past few weeks, with a significant increase in border crossings expected.