Biden admin under fire for restricting media access to border facilities

Despite promises to be more transparent, Biden administration has blocked media access to border facilities where at least 14,000 children are detained

Related video: Republican Lawmakers Tour Border Facility Holding Migrant Children

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The Biden administration has come under fire for restricting the access of reporters to facilities at the border as a surge of migrants cross into the United States.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas travelled to the border on Friday with a group of senators from both parties. The Biden administration blocked journalists from joining the trip, something reporters usually can do when members of the cabinet make trips of this kind with lawmakers.

Despite promises to be more transparent, the administration has blocked access to border facilities for the media, CNN reported. At least 14,000 children are detained at migration facilities.

Radio Television Digital News Foundation executive director Dan Shelley slammed the lack of media access in a statement: "The President promised things would be different. Turns out he was right but in this case not the way we had hoped.

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“The Trump administration allowed journalists into juvenile migrant detention facilities. He must fix this immediately.

“At a time when the southern border of the United States is undergoing a historic surge of migrants, it is more important than ever that journalists be allowed the necessary access to report accurately and independently on the Border Patrol’s response to the increased arrival of migrants and the wellbeing of those housed in Border Patrol facilities.”

NBC's Jacob Soboroff pointed out that while the Trump administration gave media access to the border facilities, they did so "because they wanted to explain to us and show us the cruelty of the separation policy. They wanted everyone to see that. Now it's the Biden administration's turn to open the doors so we can fully tell the story of not just where they want to go but why they want to go to that place and show the American public ourselves."

One of the senators on the trip with Secretary Mayorkas, Chris Murphy of Connecticut described what he saw, tweeting that "[hundreds] of kids" were "packed into big open rooms. In a corner, I fought back tears as a [13-year-old] girl sobbed uncontrollably explaining [through] a translator how terrified she was, having been separated from her grandmother and without her parents."

He later clarified that "kids are no longer separated from their parents at the border (in this case, the girl’s parents are in the US). But even though kids can now stay and apply for asylum, if they are travelling [with] relatives who aren’t parents, the relative can’t stay".

Texas Senator Ted Cruz tweeted about the Mayorkas trip: "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. I will continue to fight for press access so every American can see this crisis for themselves!"

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday that the media had not been allowed into border facilities holding children because of pandemic restrictions. But she added that the administration is still "committed to transparency, and we're considering potential options, and we hope to have an update on that soon," according to CNN.

She added that they want "a pool of media to be able to have your own visuals and get your own footage of these facilities".

In a statement to The Independent, US Customs and Border Protection said that they had “discouraged external visitors” in their facilities “due to agency COVID protocols” but that they are “offering and utilizing outdoor interviews or virtual operational briefings”.

They added that the agency “will evaluate media requests... on a case-by-case basis to determine the best course of action that protects the media and our employees, ensures the requests are operationally feasible, while also promoting public transparency and accountability”. 

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