White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre shot a response back to a senior CBS News reporter Thursday following a report from the network regarding a disagreement in the Biden administration over ending use of an immigration-related health policy.
“We obtained a nine-page Homeland Security plan from July that would end the Title 42 border policy for families with children by, among other things, offering COVID-19 vaccines to all adult family members,” senior White House correspondent Ed O’Keefe asked during the briefing.
“But, according to several presidential appointees, the plan was scratched because top White House officials, including Susan Rice, expressed concerns about the political optics of unwinding this pandemic policy as the delta variant spread,” O’Keefe continued.
“What would you say to critics of the administration’s immigration policy and medical officials who say Title 42 is junk science. Even Democrats … [say] political considerations are guiding this administration’s border policies?” the CBS correspondent asked.
Jean-Pierre said that she would not “get into or respond to the gossip” as “that’s not something we’re going to do.”
Continuing, she said, “You know every single member of this administration –” as O’Keefe interjected and said, “Several political appointees, I wouldn’t call it gossip.”
The White House spokeswoman clapped back: “Okay. That’s your opinion.”
“But every single member of this administration from the president on down is committed to building a fair and orderly immigration system. That’s what we’re committed to doing,” she continued.
“And in a short period ever time, the Biden administration continues to make considerable progress on turning the page and undoing the chaos, the cruelty and the misplaced priorities of the Trump administration,” she continued.
“So our vision for immigration is rooted in ideas that work like addressing root causes, expanding refugee processing, investing in the asylum process, creating a fair and orderly pathway. The previous administration separated families and wasted tax dollars and on an ineffective wall. We have been trying to undo that. We have been trying to make sure that we do it in a moral way, in a humanitarian way and that’s going to be the focus of this administration,” Jean-Pierre added.
O’Keefe pressed on, however, and asked if “political considerations are a part of” the Biden administration’s immigration policy.
“I’m just not going to speak to … like I said, we believe it’s gossip and I’m not going to speak to it,” she responded.
CBS News reported details of the plan earlier this week, saying that, according to the DHS memo, it “was shelved after senior White House and DHS officials expressed concern about the risks of unwinding the expulsion policy, known as Title 42, when arrests of migrants had spiked to a 21-year high and the Delta variant of the coronavirus was spreading rapidly.”
In response, the Biden administration issued an order that defended continued use of Title 42, first implemented by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 as the pandemic began spreading rapidly across the country, despite opposition from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We are in this very weird place where we’re implementing Title 42 more strongly than the Trump administration did,” said an unnamed Biden administration official.
By comparison, CBS News reported, another administration official said they “don’t want to see folks ever removed.
“That’s not where President Biden is. That’s not where the mainstream Democratic Party is,” the second official said.
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