President Joe Biden’s administration has tried for weeks to keep the public from seeing images from the border like those released Monday.
The new images show immigrant teenagers sleeping on mats in crowded conditions, separated in groups by plastic partitions. The administration steadfastly refuses to call the detention of more than 15,000 children in U.S. custody a crisis. But it has stymied most efforts by outsiders to decide for themselves.
"Children, presenting at our border, who are fleeing violence for fleeing prosecution, who are fleeing terrible situations is not a crisis, we feel that it is our responsibility to humanely approach," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. "This circumstance, and make sure they are treated with respect and put in conditions that are safe. I will say that, you know these photos show what we've long been saying, which is that the these border patrol facilities are not places made for children. They are not places that we want children to be staying for an extended period of time, our alternative is to send children back on this treacherous journey that is not in our view, the right choice to make."
Psaki also brushed off questions on whether President Joe Biden would visit the border.
"Part of our objective... was that we needed to work and partnership with these countries to address the root causes in their countries, to convey clearly and systematically that this is not the time to travel," Psaki said.
Officials have barred nonprofit lawyers who conduct oversight from entering a Border Patrol tent where thousands of children and teenagers are detained. And federal agencies have refused or ignored dozens of requests from the media for access to detention sites.