As President Joe Biden continued to sign an unprecedented number of executive orders during his first two weeks in office, he has not taken many questions from the media and his administration appears evasive when reporters have tried to glean specifics on many of the new policy directives.
On Tuesday, for instance, Biden signed three executive orders aimed at reversing Trump administration policies that former border enforcement officials have said will make the country less safe and contribute to an increase in illegal immigration.
“There’s a lot of talk, with good reason, about the number of executive orders that I have signed. I’m not making new law,” Biden told reporters as he prepared to sign the orders. “The last president of the United States issued executive orders I felt were very counterproductive to our security, counterproductive to who we are as a country, particularly in the area of immigration.
“We’re going to work to undo the moral and national shame of the previous administration that literally — not figuratively — ripped children from the arms of their families and mothers and fathers at the border, and with no plan, none whatsoever to reunify children,” he said.
Biden added that his new orders are “building on the executive actions I took on day one to protect Dreamers, and to end the Muslim ban and to better manage our borders.”
The new orders end a 2018 “zero tolerance” policy requiring all illegal border crossings to be prosecuted, and to make new attempts to reunite migrant children with their parents, which the Trump administration was also doing. Biden signed an order mandating a comprehensive analysis of all Trump-era immigration policies as well.
But after signing the orders, the president’s handlers briskly shooed reporters out of the Oval Office rather than allow them an opportunity to ask Biden questions so they could better inform the public.
Already, Customs and Border Protection officials have reported an increase in apprehensions of migrants crossing illegally into the U.S. after years of decline under the Trump administration. And in December, the Justice Department said that lawyers have not been able to find the parents of more than 600 children who were apprehended at the border.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki has come under fire for evasiveness — often telling reporters she will have to “circle back” to them with an answer at an unspecified later date.
A video montage posted online of Psaki using the phrase “circle back” went viral earlier this week, prompting a response from her.
“Twitter’s had a little fun with me because I say, I’m going to circle back. I’m going to circle back,” she told National Public Radio. “Now, I will say, and my very hardworking team can confirm, I’m obsessed with circling back with reporters, and not just saying it, but after the briefing getting back to them. That is sort of a tic I have that I’ve got to work on.”
Also, a report this week claimed the White House has sought to pre-screen some reporters’ questions ahead of Psaki’s press conferences.
Citing “three sources with knowledge of the matter” as well as “written communications,” the report indicated that the Biden administration sought questions in advance from reporters.
“While it’s a relief to see briefings return, particularly with a commitment to factual information, the press can’t really do its job in the briefing room if the White House is picking and choosing the questions they want,” one White House correspondent said during an informal Zoom call with the White House Correspondents Association, according to The Daily Beast. “That’s not really a free press at all.”
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