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Biden administration continues to deny journalists access to border facilities

The Biden administration has so far denied journalists access to border facilities amid a...

Posted: Mar 22, 2021 9:00 PM
Updated: Mar 22, 2021 10:15 PM

The Biden administration has so far denied journalists access to border facilities amid a surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the US-Mexico border, which has raised questions about its commitments to increased transparency.

Senators from both sides of the aisle have called on the administration to allow journalists access to the facilities.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday the White House was working on finalizing details to allow journalists access to the facilities and that the privacy of the minors and Covid-19 precautions were factors being considered.

'We remain committed to transparency,' Psaki said at a White House briefing. 'We certainly want to make sure that the media has access to these sites.'

But when Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas led a bipartisan delegation of senators to El Paso, Texas, on Friday, reporters were not allowed to accompany them.

The Department of Homeland Security said the trip was closed to journalists because of privacy and Covid-19 precautions.

'We are in the midst of a pandemic. We are dealing with crowded Border Patrol facilities. We are focused on our operations and the needs of the children and at the same time we are working to provide access to those Border Patrol facilities when we can do so in a safe manner,' Mayorkas told CNN's Dana Bash on 'State of the Union' on Sunday.

The Biden administration is scrambling to accommodate a surge in unaccompanied minors arriving at the border, which has overwhelmed and strained government resources. Administration officials said Thursday that the federal government had more than 14,000 migrant children in its custody.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who was part of the delegation with Mayorkas visiting facilities, told NPR that media access to the facilities is 'something that we should all press the administration to do better on.'

'We want to make sure that the press has access to hold the administration accountable. That's the reason I was there, to hold them accountable,' Murphy, who is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security, said.

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee who was also on the trip to the border, said Sunday that he would 'absolutely' push DHS to give journalists access.

'This should be transparent,' Portman told CBS. 'I mean, it's amazing to me how little my constituents know about what's going on down along the border, and it is a situation spiraling out of control.'

In addition to restricting media access, the Biden administration has also not provided their own photos of the facilities. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez was able to obtain photos from Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, which provided a rare window into the conditions for dozens of children and adults in an overflow facility in Donna, Texas.

Under the Trump administration, journalists were allowed to tour and document border and detention facilities in 2019. The Trump administration received backlash for their policy of separating children from their parents at the border -- a policy that was ultimately reversed -- and also came under scrutiny for facility conditions.

More than 800 unaccompanied migrant children have been in Border Patrol custody for more than 10 days, according to documents reviewed by CNN. Federal law requires unaccompanied children to be turned over within 72 hours to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees a shelter network designed to house minors, but amid constraints related to the pandemic, children are staying in custody for longer than the 72-hour limit.

Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas wrote a letter to Biden on Monday urging him to 'use your full authorities to effectively respond to and successfully manage the ongoing crisis at our Southwest Border.'

'It is critical that our nation take aggressive steps to secure our border, protect our communities and ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely,' the letter from the Democrat and Republican reads.

Senior Biden administration officials are traveling to Mexico on Monday to discuss managing migration with government officials. Roberta Jacobson, the Biden administration's coordinator for the southern border, and Juan Gonzalez, the National Security Council's senior director for the Western Hemisphere, will be making the trip, according to NSC spokeswoman Emily Horne.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 763915

Reported Deaths: 8581
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1526881914
Ramsey63091977
Dakota56699523
Anoka53591515
Washington33431329
Stearns28298252
St. Louis23444355
Scott21503159
Wright21099171
Olmsted18023118
Sherburne15420114
Carver1353254
Clay1016098
Rice9936131
Blue Earth960759
Crow Wing9396107
Kandiyohi830996
Chisago828062
Otter Tail7941104
Benton7454109
Beltrami645978
Mower642240
Douglas624689
Goodhue614784
Itasca608981
Winona608254
McLeod589270
Steele580825
Isanti565474
Morrison553566
Becker524662
Polk506377
Freeborn485242
Nobles480052
Lyon451456
Carlton443866
Nicollet431351
Pine424630
Cass420742
Mille Lacs411265
Brown405347
Todd397336
Le Sueur381831
Meeker354552
Waseca326130
Martin322834
Wabasha29095
Hubbard286744
Dodge27149
Roseau261026
Fillmore241012
Redwood238643
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Houston230017
Renville226449
Faribault218530
Pennington215027
Sibley207312
Cottonwood195228
Kanabec190230
Chippewa189740
Aitkin181542
Watonwan170311
Pope15888
Yellow Medicine154720
Rock154519
Jackson145614
Koochiching137919
Clearwater135518
Swift134219
Marshall133419
Murray133210
Pipestone132327
Stevens124211
Lake108121
Wilkin101314
Lac qui Parle97524
Mahnomen87712
Norman8579
Big Stone7934
Grant7759
Lincoln7695
Kittson60322
Red Lake5869
Unassigned541124
Traverse5075
Lake of the Woods4614
Cook2460

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 467281

Reported Deaths: 6685
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk73698716
Linn28680379
Scott24441271
Black Hawk20130355
Woodbury18854242
Johnson17800100
Dubuque15577228
Pottawattamie14073197
Dallas13894107
Story1275148
Warren763496
Webster6876111
Cerro Gordo6816107
Clinton6814100
Des Moines657893
Marshall635484
Muscatine6294113
Wapello5807136
Jasper571478
Lee560787
Sioux560276
Marion499791
Buena Vista489745
Plymouth459187
Henry378647
Jones365160
Washington362255
Bremer353867
Benton352056
Boone344837
Carroll341753
Crawford337345
Mahaska313656
Dickinson297651
Clay274631
Buchanan274239
Jackson270445
Kossuth269373
Hardin266448
Tama261476
Fayette253848
Delaware253444
Cedar246326
Page244827
Wright240945
Winneshiek230837
Hamilton228553
Floyd216744
Harrison215277
Madison214325
Clayton210058
Poweshiek206840
Iowa204229
Butler203237
Jefferson197340
Mills197227
Allamakee192952
Cherokee191943
Lyon190641
Cass190557
Winnebago185432
Hancock184739
Calhoun184115
Appanoose175950
Shelby174239
Louisa169651
Grundy167937
Emmet163842
Franklin163328
Humboldt161826
Mitchell161843
Union159437
Chickasaw156418
Sac156323
Guthrie154034
Palo Alto140831
Clarke140028
Montgomery138941
Keokuk137534
Monroe131534
Howard125422
Ida116641
Davis113825
Greene113712
Lucas112224
Pocahontas109323
Monona107436
Worth10678
Adair103634
Osceola91117
Fremont83711
Van Buren82721
Decatur81212
Taylor78612
Wayne72024
Ringgold66827
Audubon64514
Adams4984
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