Reporters, GOP lawmakers criticize DHS media ban at border
UPDATED 7:20 AM PT – Sunday, March 21, 2021
The Biden administration said it would circle back with reporters on when they’ll recommit to their promise of transparency. This came after reporters were barred from accompanying DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and a delegation of bipartisan senators to America’s southern border.
“Well, first, let me say that the White House and we all in the administration support finding a way to grant access to the media to the HHS ORR facilities or the shelters where these children are staying for a temporary period of time before they’re placed with family members or with sponsored homes,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated.
The visit aimed to provide officials with a better grasp of the Biden border crisis, especially regarding the flood of children who are crossing the border alone.
Mayorkas and Democrat lawmakers are blaming COVID-19 and privacy protocols for the lack of media access.
“I don’t necessarily think that it’s appropriate for journalists to be inside centers that are not permanent places for children,” Rep Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) stated. “Children are not placed there permanently, they are processed out of those facilities as quickly as possible and as quickly as these facilities will allow.”
The move has brought lawmakers and reporters together to demand media outlets be let in to migrant facilities and inform public of what’s going on.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) called the move outrageous and unacceptable. He added the DHS even blocked a request for the reporters to document his planned trip to the border next week with 15 other senators.
No press. No cameras.
What is Biden hiding?
Next week, I’m bringing 15 senators to the border. DHS said NO to our request to bring media.
Outrageous & unacceptable.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) March 19, 2021
Getty Images special correspondent John Moore said an outright media ban is unprecedented in modern history. He emphasized the last three administrations have given journalists access to agencies and facilities at the southern border.
I respectfully ask US Customs and Border Protection to stop blocking media access to their border operations. I have photographed CBP under Bush, Obama and Trump but now – zero access is granted to media. These long lens images taken from the Mexican side. @CBP #gettyimagesnews pic.twitter.com/cWa90TlfeS
— John Moore (@jbmoorephoto) March 19, 2021
Moore added coronavirus protocols are not a valid excuse for the restrictions.
NBC’s Jacob Soboroff sounded off in a similar tune, saying the Trump administration let in reporters despite negative press against his immigration policies.
“Part of the problem is, we as journalists are not able to explain what’s going on, I think to the larger American public because the Biden administration at this point is not letting us inside, you know, which I think is critical for them to do. The Trump administration did it at the height of the separations to show us the cruelty of those policies,” Soboroff said. “The Biden administration should let us in so we can show what it is about the system that they want to change, instead of keeping it closed behind those doors at the processing center.”
Current data shows around 9,500 migrant children are being held in HHS facilities, and more than 5,000 are being held in CBP custody. Hundreds of children held by the CBP have been in custody for 10 days or more, violating the legal standard of 72 hours.
Mayorkas said many of these facilities are cramped and made for adults and are “no place for a child.”
In the meantime, Psaki said the Biden administration is open to letting reporters see the facilities for themselves. However, she has not given reporters a timeline of when this will happen.