WASHINGTON — The Obama administration steered clear Wednesday of directly criticizing the California protests blocked the relocation of undocumented immigrant minors away from the border into new processing facilities.
"I haven't spoken to the president about those news reports," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said when asked for the president's reaction. Earnest moved immediately to a larger discussion about the ongoing crisis at the border.
"The president has directed the secretary of Homeland Security to do — and he's asked for funding from Congress to make sure that we can maximize this — is to increase the amount of resources that's dedicated to dealing with the surge in illegal migration that we've seen at the southwest border," Earnest said. He pointed to additional resources the administration has dispatched to the border as well as new diplomatic efforts taken with Latin American governments to reduce the border crossings.
Nearly 50,000 undocumented immigrants have crossed the border in recent months, many of them unaccompanied children. Because facilities near the border are over capacity, detained undocumented immigrants are being relocated to facilities as far away as Maryland and Virginia.
Spurred on by the mayor, hundreds in Murrieta, Calif., on Tuesday waved American flags and chanted slogans like "Bus illegal children to the White House," surrounding buses of undocumented immigrants in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The buses were meant for an ICE facility in Murrieta but turned around and went to San Diego.
Earnest said the protest would not cause the administration to reevaluate its plan to deal with the border situation.
"No, not at this point," he said, when asked if the protests would lead the White House to "further reassess its strategy in terms of dealing with what's happening."
"At this point what we're focused on is making sure that we can ramp up the resources that are necessary to meet this growing need," he said. "And again, this is about balancing our responsibility to treat in a humane way those who are attempting to enter this country, but also sending a clear signal to everybody inside this country and to people in other countries who might be contemplating making the very dangerous trip to our southwestern border that the law will be enforced. And that's exactly what's happening."
Later in the briefing a reporter asked about the impact of the surge in border crossings, noting that "besides the ugliness and the rancor that happened at the Murrieta yesterday, there are some people there who are genuinely concerned that their towns are not able to handle the influx and concerned about their health."
Earnest said those concerns are being heard and urged Congress to send more resources to assist federal agencies already working on the border.
"The president has, you know, over the weekend indicated his desire to seek greater funding from Congress so that we can devote more resources to dealing with this problem at our border," Earnest said. "And that's certainly the kind of assistance that would benefit communities like McAllen [a Texas border town] that are working very hard to deal with the consequences of this surge that we've seen."