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FLASHBACK: Kamala Stressed Importance of Free Press at Border During Trump Admin

Biden admin now restricting media access at overcrowded migrant facilities

• March 25, 2021 2:29 pm

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Years before the Biden administration denied media access to overflowing migrant detention facilities, Vice President Kamala Harris stressed the need to counter the Trump administration's "rhetoric" through on-the-ground border coverage.

During a 2018 interview outside of a border facility, Harris thanked the "free and independent press" for giving a "close-up look" at the Trump administration's southern border policies, which she called "heartbreaking." 

"Thank God for a free and independent press, you know?" Harris said. "All these folks being down in Texas and here in California and at the border and giving the American public a close-up look at what's really happening as opposed to the rhetoric coming out of this administration."

Harris's 2018 stance stands in sharp contrast to the Biden administration's current actions at the border. For weeks, Harris and President Joe Biden refused to allow news media into migrant housing facilities along the border. The administration finally allowed a single camera into a Carrizo Springs, Texas, shelter on Wednesday. The facility, however, does not resemble the warehouse-like centers where thousands of unaccompanied minors are held in overcrowded "pods"—it instead offers bunk beds and educational services.

Despite the restrictions, Biden committed to "transparency" at the border during a Thursday press conference but refused to disclose when reporters would be allowed at the overcrowded facilities.

"I will commit when my plan, very shortly, is underway to let you have access to … other facilities as well," Biden said. "I will commit to transparency, and as soon as I'm in a position to implement what we're doing right now."

Both Democrats and Republicans have criticized the lack of media access, with Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) stressing the need to "make sure that the press has access to hold the administration accountable." 

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.

Biden tapped Harris to lead the White House's response to the ongoing border crisis on Wednesday. U.S. Border Patrol agents are detaining an average of 600 unaccompanied migrant children per day, a more than 60 percent increase from the 370 average daily apprehensions during a previous migrant surge in 2019. The Trump administration allowed media to tour migrant detention centers at the time.

Harris, like Psaki, has thus far refused to refer to the border surge as a "crisis." The vice president instead called the situation a "huge problem" that is "not going to be solved overnight" on Wednesday.