When President Biden referred to an immigration-related “crisis” over the weekend, he was not referring to migrants crossing the southern border, White House press secretary Jen Psaki insisted to reporters Monday.
The Biden administration had resisted using the term “crisis” to describe the number of migrants crossing the border in record numbers – including many unaccompanied children and 172,000 migrant encounters in March alone – instead referring to the situation as a “challenge.” On Saturday, the president made reference to “the crisis that ended up on the border with young people,” but according to Psaki this had been misconstrued.
“The president does not feel that children coming to our border seeking refuge from violence, economic hardships, and other dire circumstances is a crisis,” Psaki said during a press briefing on Monday. “He does feel that the crisis in Central America, the dire circumstances that many are fleeing from, that that is a situation we need to spend our time, our effort on, and we need to address it if we’re going to prevent more of an influx of migrants from coming in years to come.”
The president’s discussion of a crisis was meant to explain why he had not yet raised the cap on refugees that had been put in place by former President Donald Trump.
Biden had said in February that he would increase the cap to 125,000 for fiscal year 2022 which begins in October. Fellow Democrats were upset when the current cap of 15,000 was kept in place.
Hours later, the White House changed course, blaming “confusion” on behalf of the media, while promising to raise the number of refugees by the middle of next month.
On Monday, Psaki would not say if Biden’s decision to now raise the cap was due to Democratic pressure.