In her inaugural daily press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that she and President Biden “talked about the importance of bringing truth and transparency back to the briefing room, and he asked me to ensure we are communicating about the policies across the Biden-Harris administration and the work his team is doing every single day on behalf of all American people.”
So, how have Biden, Psaki and the administration done in terms of “truth and transparency” concerning the growing crisis at the Southwest border?
“I sit on the Homeland Appropriations [Subcommittee]. I get more information from across the river [Mexico] than I do from my own government which is amazing,” stated Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) during an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe in late March.
Cuellar, whose district borders Mexico, for months had been trying to get more information from the Biden administration on the situation inside migrant detention centers and other facilities housing increasing numbers of unaccompanied minors. As the Associated Press noted, “Administration officials have steadfastly refused to call the detention of more than 15,000 children in U.S. custody, or the conditions they’re living under, a crisis. But they have stymied most efforts by outsiders to decide for themselves.”
Two months and two days after Psaki made her pledge of transparency, as a last resort, Cuellar released photos of the Donna, Texas, detention center to Axios which made clear why Biden et al were non-transparent.
The photos gave a glimpse of more than 400 unaccompanied male minors living in center with a 260-person occupancy.
“Photos Of Migrant Children Detention Highlighting Biden’s Border Secrecy Shared By Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar,” read the headline of the CBS affiliate in Dallas.
A day after the release of the photos, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to “let journalists do their job by granting them access to facilities along the border and granting them interviews from officials who know and can accurately convey to the public what is going on.”
“Such transparency is of the utmost importance at this time and all the time,” added SPJ National President Matthew T. Hall in the statement.
In briefing after briefing, Psaki and other White House officials were pressed about granting more access to the facilities or to simply provide data about how many unaccompanied minors were in the care of the U.S. government.
In her March 1 briefing, she was asked why some news outlets were denied access, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he would look into “the reasons why access was denied,” but added that “another principle to which I intend to adhere throughout my tenure, and that’s openness and transparency, and that includes the Fourth Estate.”
On March 17, Psaki was asked why the media “still have not seen any images inside these facilities?” Psaki insisted they “remain committed to doing that, and I think these facilities are overseen — HHS, of course, overseens [sic]— oversees the shelters; DHS oversees the Border Patrol facilities. And we want to work with them to ensure we can do it, respecting the privacy and, obviously, the health protocols required by COVID.”
After Cuellar’s photos were released, Psaki’s response was spun as some sort of confirmation of the White House line.
“I will say that, you know, these photos show what we’ve long been saying, which is that these Border Patrol facilities are not places made for children. They are not places that we want children to be staying for an extended period of time,” argued Psaki in trying to make it seem as the Biden administration did not control the conditions which caused the minors to flee and the conditions in which they are housed.
Three days later, Psaki’s boss was spinning the same yarn.
“I will commit to transparency,” stated Biden when pressed about media access in his first press conference.
Has it finally gotten more transparent?
Just this week, Psaki was asked why Vice President Harris told CNN in an earlier interview that she’s not gone to the border because “we have to deal with COVID issues.”
What is the real reason a fully-vaccinated Harris has not traveled with her fully-vaccinated staff in the vice presidential plane down to the border?
“Well, I would certainly have to ask her team about that specifically, but I would tell you also that her focus is not on the border; it’s on addressing the root causes in the Northern Triangle. And that’s why the majority of her time has been spent on working with — on a diplomatic level,” admitted Psaki on April 26 in what might have been her only transparent and truthful statement about the border in the first 100 days.
Until the Biden administration can be truthful about the crisis at the border that they created, transparency will always be a promise yet fulfilled.