Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, September 23, 2021

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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, September 23, 2021

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 12:14 P.M. EDT MS. PSAKI:  Hi, everyone.  All right.  Today, NEC Director Brian Deese and Secre

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:14 P.M. EDT
 
MS. PSAKI:  Hi, everyone.  All right.  Today, NEC Director Brian Deese and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo will host a semiconductor supply chain convening to discuss the ongoing global chip shortage, the impact the Delta variant has had on global semiconductor supply chaing [sic] — chains, and the industry’s progress toward improving transparency and trust across the supply chains that both produce and consume chips.
 
We use semiconductor chips constantly in our everyday lives, and the participants in today’s event will be representative of that — including those from the consumer electronics industry, like Apple and Microsoft; the automotive and trucking industry, including General Motors, Daimler, and BMW; and firms that support agricultural and infrastructure equipment.
 
The semiconductor shortage has been top of mind for the President since he took office.  And we — but we also know we must also rely on the industry to take steps to minimize the impact the shortage is having on U.S. workers and consumers, including providing greater transparency.
 
We will continue to work with Congress to fund longer-term solutions — something we’ve been working hard on — to expand and strengthen domestic manufacturing capacity for chips and strengthen the federal capacity to address supply chain resiliency.
 
And we’re also working with partners and allies to minimize the impact disruptions overseas have on the U.S. economy.  Here, we’ve been working with foreign governments in Southeast Asia and elsewhere to keep critical factories up and running, while taking appropriate COVID precautions to support the local public health response and worker safety.
 
Why don’t you kick us off.
 
Q    Thanks, Jen.  Two questions, both on budget.  One, Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi came out and said they have agreement with the White House on a “menu of options” to pay for the agenda.  Senator Manchin and Senator Sanders have indicated they don’t know what’s on that menu.  Can you give us some details about what is on that menu and maybe, like, a rough range, maybe specific options — anything that shows that this is progress?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, first, Josh, we certainly think it’s progress.  And it builds on the President’s meetings he had yesterday with leadership, with moderates, with progressives to talk about the path forward in an effort to unify members of the Democratic Party and caucus around our shared objective of lowering costs for Americans and making the tax code more fair.
 
As Leader Schumer saw — I know you followed it closely, but for others — as Leader Schumer said, I should say, he conveyed what has been agreed to is a menu of options that will pay for whatever the agreement on the investment may look like.  And so it’s a menu of revenue raisers.
 
Now, I think, as you may understand, it’s important to have those discussions with the range of important leaders — including Senator Sinema, Senator Manchin, a range of members — about what those menu of options of revenue raisers look like.  That’s exactly the process that’s going to happen over the short term.
 
So I’m going to let that play out before I detail more from here.  I would otherwise point you to Leader Schumer’s office. 
 
Q    Okay.  Secondly, I know you don’t want to negotiate from the podium, but —
 
MS. PSAKI:  I typically try not to.  (Laughs.) 
 
Q    Exactly.  But are there any items where there is unity among Democratic lawmakers in the White House, like with regard to the Child Tax Credit, universal pre-K?  Is there anything where you can say, “We have agreement that we want these programs at this level”? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, I think what’s important to note here — and you gave me an opportunity to do this — is there is broad unity about the importance of, again, lowering costs for Americans, whether it’s childcare, eldercare, the cost of college, cost of pre-K.  That’s all part of the discussion.  Child Tax Credit.  There’s broad agreement that we need to do more to address the climate crisis.  There’s extensive proposals, both in the infrastructure package as well as in the reconciliation package. 
 
A big part of what we’re talking about here, which is not a secret to all of you, are the size of the package, right?  There are a range of different viewpoints on that.  That’s part of what the discussion is, and that will certainly impact as — what we — as we look toward how we’re going to unify moving forward. 
 
Go ahead. 
 
Q    Thanks.  So, following up, I want — a few follow-ups on the budget — 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.
 
Q    — but also on Haiti, too.  So, am I hearing you say that the White House, at this point, is okay with any of the financing options that are still on the menu?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, our bar has cont- — has always been, from the beginning, nothing that would raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year, and certainly we wouldn’t support anything that would.
 
But this, again, is a menu and a range of options.  It’s an important step forward, a sign of progress.  But there’s no question there’s a lot of work ahead that will proceed over the rest of the day and the days ahead.
 
Q    But the President has greenlit all the choices on the menu we’re talking about.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Again, yes, but it’s a range of options, and the next step is to have a discussion with a range of members about the path forward.
 
Q    And then, on Haiti, we saw that U.S. Special Envoy, Daniel Foote, resigning.  He had a strong words.  He called — said he would not be associated with the United States’ “inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees.”  Why would DHS go ahead with a plan against the Special Envoy’s advice?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, let’s take a step back here for a moment.  I would also first note that the State Department put out a statement on his resignation.  He was obviously an employee of the State Department and, of course, of the administration. 
 
First, I would note, there have been multiple senior level policy conversations on Haiti where all proposals, including those led by Special Envoy Foote, were fully considered in a rigorous policy process. 
 
There are disagreements in these policy processes that — the President welcomes that, the Secretary of State welcomes that.  That’s certainly a part of having discussions and having robust discussions about the best path forward for difficult circumstances.  Some of those proposals were harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti.  I’m not going to detail that further; I will let the State Department do that should they choose to.
 
But I would note that Special Envoy Foote had ample opportunity to raise concerns about migration during his tenure; he never once did so.  Now, that wasn’t his purview.  His purview was, of course, being the Special Envoy on the ground.  His positions were — and his views were put forward, they were valued, they were heard.  Different policy decisions were made, in some circumstances.
 
Q    But it’s not just him.  We’ve heard from Democrats on Capitol Hill, too, who say they’re really against these mass deportations.  The White House still stands behind the mass deportations?  They — do you still view them as humane?
 
MS. PSAKI:  First of all, they’re not deportations.  People are not coming into the country through legal methods. 
 
And again, our policy process has continued to be the same with Haiti as it is for anybody coming through an irregular — through irregular migration across our border.
 
I’d note, as I did yesterday, that as we’ve applied our border restrictions, as we’ve applied our immigration policies, there were more than 90,000 people who departed the country, who tried — who attempted to cross our border in the month of August.  That was even before we saw the horrible photos that we saw of people gathering under the bridge. 
 
There is a process that is in place, as people — whether they’re coming from Haiti or any part of the world goes through.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Jen, we haven’t yet heard recently from President Biden specifically about these images on the border.  You have described him as saying that they’re “horrible.”  But what does he believe of the comparisons being made between his administration and the Trump administration? 
 
We saw Congresswoman Maxine Waters just today saying this is “Trump’s policy.”  Several other Democrats are saying this looks like the previous administration.  What does he think of those comments? 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, what our role is and what the President has asked his outreach team, members of his national security team, homeland security team to do is to explain clearly what our policy is and what our policy is not. 
 
We could not see it as any more different from the policy of the prior administration, which the President feels — we all feel — was inhumane, immoral, ineffective, not operationally — wasn’t operationally working.  And because of the dysfunction of it, we have led to a very broken system that we’re dealing with today. 
 
So what he has asked all of us to convey clearly to people who understandably have questions, are passionate, are concerned as we are about the images that we have seen is: One, we feel those images are horrible and horrific.  There was an investigation the President certainly supports, overseen by the Department of Homeland Security, which he has conveyed will happen quickly. 
 
I can also convey to you that the Secretary also conveyed to civil rights leaders earlier this morning that we would no longer be using horses in Del Rio.  So that is something — a policy change that has been made in response.
 
But separately, all related, it’s also important for people to understand what our process and our immigration process is and what the steps are that are taken.  We are still under Title 42 because we are in a global pandemic, so we are still operationalizing that.
 
If people are not — are not expelled under that, then they are — there are a range of options.  Either they are put into a — an alternative to detention where they — where biometric data is required, they are required to — they are given a notice to appear, or they are given — or they are put in an ICE facility. 
 
This is the process that is ongoing and has happened for every other migrant who has attempted to come irregularly across the border. 
 
Q    If I could ask one follow-up on the budget: What is it about the nearly five hours of meetings yesterday that gives President Biden hope?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I think what gives him hope is that there is agreement about the need to do more to address costs for the American public, whether it’s childcare, eldercare, the cost of college, pre-K. 
 
There’s also agreement that there’s more that needs to be done to make our tax system more fair.
 
There are important discussions and certainly there are people — there are differences of opinion on what the size of the package should look like.  Those are important discussions.  But he felt encouraged by how constructive the conversations were.  He’s going to have his sleeves rolled up, and he’ll be very engaged moving forward.
 
Q    Speaking of “rolled up,” what will be happening this afternoon?  Who is he planning on meeting with here at the White House?
 
MS. PSAKI:  We’re still finalizing specifics, but I think there’ll be members who — we’re working to see if there can be meetings at the staff level at this point as a follow-up to yesterday.
 
Q    At the staff level.  But the President will not be meeting with lawmakers today?
 
MS. PSAKI:  We’ll see, Jeff.  The President is always open to meeting with, discussing, communicating with lawmakers, but — as yesterday is evidence of.  But he just met with a broad range of members yesterday.  There’s a lot of work that needs to continue that can happen with senior staff members, but I don’t think anything has been finalized quite yet.  We’re happy to keep you updated if it does.
 
Go ahead.  And I promised I would jump around today, so after you, I’ll jump around and come back.
 
Q    Thanks, Jen.  After yesterday’s meeting, Senator Schu- — Manchin said that the President was very straightforward with he and other attendees about what he expected of them and that the President said, “Just give me a number that you can live with and what you want.”  But the progressives have been so clear about their number.  Does he have any reason to believe they’re willing to come down from $3.5 trillion?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, this is what a negotiation looks like.  This is what compromise looks like.  And, ultimately, the President also wants to see a robust package that will help lower costs for the American people across the country.  You need the votes to get that forward; that is how the process works in Congress.  This is democracy in action.
 
So, his role yesterday was meeting with a range of voices, hearing from them on what they’re excited about, where they may have concerns, and trying to help be a unifier in moving the process forward.  It wasn’t that it ended yesterday; there’s a lot of work ahead, which will proceed over the days ahead.
 
Q    So he does think they might come down?
 
MS. PSAKI:  We’ll see.  He’s always believed that there would need to be a potential for compromise, would need to be what everybody would have to be open to.
 
Q    And on Haiti, just a couple questions.  
 
MS. PSAKI:  Mm-hmm.
 
Q    Are you doing anything to expedite the process of finding Foote’s replacement, given the situation in Haiti?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I don’t have anything to report out to you on kind of what the next steps are there.  What I can reiterate to you is we have an ambassador on the ground, we have a robust presence on the ground, we have a newly installed Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere, all of whom have experience in the region and will certainly be overseeing the policy at this point in time.
 
Ken, why don’t you go —
 
Q    Just —
 
MS. PSAKI:  Oh, go ahead.
 
Q    Just one more.  Just, one of his concerns that he laid out in this letter was that the Haitian government is expressing an inability to provide for the migrants that are returning there because of a lack of basic resources.  DHS has said, vaguely, that the U.S. will provide support for those people — for the Haitian government to absorb deportees.  Can you provide any specific details about that support?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, first, let me say — because this is a question that’s been asked — that we are working with the International Organization on Migration to ensure that returning Haitian migrants are met at the airport and provided immediate assistance.  So that’s in the most immediate.
 
In terms of the range of assistance we’ve provided, let me just give you just a quick overview of what we’ve done, sort of, to date:
 
U.S. agencies, led by USAID, recently provided an additional $32 million in new assistance to support earthquake response efforts and humanitarian relief.  This funding builds on the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Teams.
 
In January, we announced $75.5 million in bilateral development and health assistance for a wide range of issues for Haiti that we’re still working with them, of course, on to deploy.  That’s a large amount of money. 
 
So, I would say we’re continuing to provide a range of assistance.  But the recent $32 million is in response to the earthquake that happened over the summer.
 
Go ahead, Ken.
 
Q    Just on the infrastructure package: Just having had these lengthy meetings yesterday, does the President think the House should move on the infrastructure bill in the beginning of next week, or does he think that there might be a benefit to waiting and delaying on that?
 
MS. PSAKI:  The President is going to work closely with leadership to determine what the next best steps are.
 
Q    He also may need Republican votes.  Does he intend to bring Republicans — House Republicans over to talk about infrastructure in the next few days?
 
MS. PSAKI:  We’re really deciding day by day on what can be most helpful and constructive to moving his agenda forward, which includes each of these pieces of legislation.  So, right now, I don’t have anything on the books, but we’re, again, deciding day by day.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    We’re about a week away from the end of the fiscal year, and we understand that today is the day that the administration is going to suggest — well, instruct agencies to develop contingency plans for a funding lapse. 
 
I want to ask specifically about agencies within HHS — the CDC and the FDA.  Years ago, in 2013, when there was a government shutdown, Tom Frieden, who then led the CDC, described that period of time as one of the worst in his tenure at the agency; 8,000 CDC staffers, he said, were furloughed.  Do you expect a similar dynamic to play out if there’s a shutdown this year, in this pandemic, or will there be different instructions to those critical agencies now?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, we are taking every step we can to mitigate the impacts of a potential shutdown on our pandemic response, economic recovery, or other priorities. 
 
The fact is shutdowns are incredibly costly, disruptive, and damaging.  Direct public health efforts can generally proceed during a shutdown because they’re exempt, and that is certainly our intention.  And large — but large swaths of the federal government coming to a screeching halt would certainly not be beneficial to pandemic response.  But we are doing everything we can to mitigate.
 
I’d also say, on the first part of your question, it’s consistent with longstanding practice across many administrations for OMB to simply remind agency senior staff of the need to review and update orderly shutdown plans.  This is not formal guidance being given, it’s just a reminder — we’re seven days out, and we need to be prepared, of course, in any event, of any contingency.
 
So we see this as a routine step and one just to be prepared in any event of what could happen.
 
Q    It’s theoretical, but would the administration be in support of, let’s just say, a cut-out, a CR just for Health and Human Services or other departments that are critical to the pandemic response?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I don’t think I’m going to speak to that, Steve.  Our objective here — there is a CR that passed; there’s a debt limit that passed — raising the debt limit that passed the House.  The Senate can ask to raise both of them and to ensure there’s funding for a range of government programs. 
 
Go ahead.  And then I’ll go — and then I’ll jump more to the back.  Go ahead.
 
Q    Thanks, Jen.  My first question is on Haiti, and then I have sort of a bigger-picture question around that.  But should the administration have been more prepared for these people to come, given the political unrest there this summer, then the earthquake in mid-August, given how conditions were on the ground there even before all of that?
 
And then, kind of, a second part of it is that the Border Patrol union has been saying that they had some warnings within the administration, as early as June, that they were expecting an influx, not of Haitians but of other migrants to Del Rio, and that they needed more resources there.  So did the administration not act on those things?  Were those not widely disseminated concerns?
 
And then, you know, just kind of on the conditions in Haiti — like, couldn’t the administration have expected that refugees were going to show up somewhere in these weeks?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, there’s a range of factors here.  It’s hard to really gauge what percentage — or I can’t attribute at this point what percentage each of those factors are.
 
Obviously, there are challenging circumstances on the ground in Haiti with the government unrest, with the earthquake.  There are also a number of smugglers who are taking advantage of this, and we’ve seen that over the course of the last couple of weeks. 
 
Certainly, we’re aware of that reality; we’ve seen that in parts — other parts of Central America as well.  But, you know, that’s something that we have no doubt has contributed to a rapid influx of people who were told that they could come into the country and everything would be fine when, clearly, it’s not. 
 
So, all we can focus on at this point is what steps we’re taking now to ensure there is an orderly and humane process, to ensure that people who are there are treated with dignity, that they’re going through a process of being considered for the range of options.  And that’s what our focus is on at this point in time.
 
Q    And then just, sort of (inaudible).  President Biden ran on a promise to use government to help people and that he would be able to wield the powers of government effectively.  But we’ve seen on a range of issues — whether it’s the pandemic, immigration, Afghanistan — you know, some missteps or places where the government trying to do its best hasn’t necessarily been good enough. 
 
So, what do you say to a voter who might be saying, “I thought Biden was going to know how to run this government, but now we’re looking at a potential government shutdown in a week and a default on U.S. debt”?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I would say that every President is elected to weather storms and navigate crises, and they come to every presidency. 
 
And if you look at all of the things that you loaded into that question — all issues that are happening, of course, currently, the President has been clear that he wanted to end a 20-year war in Afghanistan.  He did exactly that.  That’s something I would say the American public broadly supports.  We’ve certainly acknowledged that there are aspects, of course, of how it was handled or how all of the events transpired that were not what we had planned for. 
 
I would say, on other issues, we are doing everything we can to prevent a government shutdown and planning to prevent the impact that we’ve seen in the past that has been quite devastating on different components of government.  We’re, right now, in the midst of trying to get a historic package that’s going to address a lot of issues the American people care about across the finish line.  And making policy is messy, so we’re right in the middle of that.
 
So I would say to anyone who feels that way: We’re in the middle of navigating and weathering storms and dealing with crises.  That’s what a President should do.  That’s what an administration should do.  We’re not going to shy away from that.  And that’s what people were elect him — elected him to get through.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Also on Haiti — building on Jeff’s question:  When you have Maxine Waters saying that wha- — these images and this policy has — harkens back to the slave trade — I mean, you’re saying here that you’re trying to communicate what the policy is.  She and other Democrats, who are your allies, and there have been other, you know, political projects, are criticizing that very policy.  Isn’t this a larger problem — a political problem for the President than just merely communicating what the Title 42 policy is?
 
MS. PSAKI:  It’s not just about the Title 42 policy.  I think Congresswoman Waters and others, as are we, have been horrified by the photos of the Border Patrol officers and that behavior.  and we’ve taken very specific action in launching the investigation, ending a part of a policy that the Secretary of Homeland Security felt was problematic. 
 
There has also been a view that we were handling our immigration policy in a different way than we were handling for other migrants across — who were coming across the border; that’s not true. 
 
And so, what we’ve been doing is trying to explain what our policy and our process is and reiterate to everyone that our objective is not to keep the policy as it is, which is not wo- — which is broken, which is not workable long term; to work with people who are frustrated to put in place a new immigration policy that is humane, that is orderly, that does have robust asylum processing. 
 
But we’ve also reiterated that it is our objective to continue to implement what is law and what our laws are, and that includes border restrictions.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Jen, in the spirit of explaining policy, can you explain how the administration is determining who gets to come in and get processed under Title 8 and get an NTA, and who’s getting expelled?  On-the-ground reporting suggests that it’s based off demographic — not racial demographic, but if you come in as a family, single adult, what have you.  How is Border Patrol determining right now who actually gets to stay in and get processed and who gets expelled under Title 42?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  So, across the border, including in the Del Rio sector, we continue to enfi- — enforce Title 42.  Families and single adults are typically expelled under this CDC directive when possible. 
 
The determination of who can be expelled or not is determined by a number of factors, including the makeup of a specific family unit.  Some people with kids who are younger than a certain age are not accepted back in certain countries.  We know that from our immigration policy writ large, long before the last couple of weeks — and agreements with the country of origin or — and as well as agreements with the country of origin or last residence.
 
As you know, and all of you — as all of you have reported, this is not just a case of everyone coming directly from Haiti.  People are coming from different countries, some where they have lived for periods of time; family units are different.  And so each is made on a case-by-case basis. 
 
Another determining factor is detention capacity both within ICE and CPB.  And so, as we have stated, those who cannot be expelled are placed into removal proceedings and issued a notice to appear, or when capacity issues and processing backlogs arise, they may be processed via an alternate means, which requires them to report to an ICE office to commence the next steps in their immigration proceedings.  That’s how the process works.
 
Q    DHS, thus far, has not given data on — specifically in Del Rio — of those who have been processed under Title 8 and those who have been processed under Title 42.  Is there any breakdown that you can provide on that?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I think they did provide yesterday.  And I think they’re going to be providing regular updates. 
 
And certainly, this is something that is under their purview, as you noted — that the Department has conducted two repatriation flights yesterday — I’m just going to give you a little more information than you asked for, but just so everybody has it — with a total of 318 Haitian nationals on board.  They — these flights will continue. 
 
Since Sunday, September 19th, 12 repatriation flights have left the United States; 1,401 Haitian nationals have been returned to Haiti; thirt- — 3,206 Haitian nationals have been moved from the Del Rio camp to CBP custody or to other sectors of the United States border to either be expelled via Title 42, if possible, or placed into removal proceedings.  Sometimes it requires a discussion in order to determine the path forward.  Then — therefore, there remain less than 5,000 migrants in the Del Rio sector.
 
Q    Can I just — can I ask about police reform as well?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.
 
Q    Obviously, reports that those, you know, talks are dead.  What’s the White House strategy now, moving forward, to try and rein in police departments?  And I know that the readout yesterday mentioned working with Democrats both in the House and the Senate, but what’s the strategy also for the White House to work with Republicans, as well, who did ask for more concessions when it came to these negotiations?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, I spoke to this quite a bit yesterday, but I’m happy to speak to it again. 
 
Part of our objective is to communicate and work with a range of members, activists, and others who have been involved in pressing for reforms — something the President strongly supports.  That includes the consideration of executive action and certainly consider — includes considering whether there is a path forward legislatively.
 
Obviously, we just saw those talks break down just yesterday, so those engagements need to resume.  But those are really the next steps in the process.
 
Karen, go ahead. 
 
Q    Thanks.  Getting back to the Monday potential vote on infrastructure.  You had said, in response to Ken’s question, that the President is working closely with leadership to determine what the next best steps are, but what has he indicated he thinks the next best steps are?  Is he looking at Monday as a hard deadline, or would he be okay with that vote being delayed by a couple of weeks?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Again, he is somebody who has been through this process quite a few times before.  And he is going to work in close consultation with leadership.  That’s when the vote is scheduled.  We don’t have any information to suggest that has changed. 
 
But our focus right now and, really, his focus is on finding common ground, working together to unify the caucus and the party around a path forward.
 
Q    And to follow up on that and what you had said earlier about there’s a lot of work that still needs to be done and the President sees himself as a unifier in this process moving forward: Does he feel that he has to sit down in the same room with the moderates and the progressives?  Yesterday, the meetings were separate; you explained why.  But does he think he needs to have all of those stakeholders together to actually move this process forward?
 
MS. PSAKI:  We’re going to determine day by day what the right next steps are.  So yesterday, he had meetings with a range of voices, some who had different points of view.  That’s part of who we are as a Democratic Party, part of democracy.  And we’ll determine day by day what the best next steps are.
 
Today, I think, it’s follow-up on a staff level.
 
Q    He’s kind of like a middleman then if he’s hearing from the moderates and then passing that on to the progressives.
 
MS. PSAKI:  He’s, though — he’s not the — they’re talking to each other as well.  So this is just his role in hearing from all of them and playing a role that he can to unify points of view and find the next best paths forward.
 
Go ahead, Yamiche.
 
Q    Hi.  Thanks, Jen.  A couple of questions on Haiti.  The first is: The President has often used his bully pulpit during the most important times in his administration.  Why is he not using that bully pulpit to speak out forcefully himself on the treatment of Haitians?
 
MS. PSAKI:  I would say, Yamiche: Certainly, I’ve represented to you all his point of view.  His point of view is also reflected in the actions that have been taken through the administration, including the investigation, including the change in policy. 
 
The Secretary of Homeland Security oversees these efforts and has been quite outspoken and quite visible on what steps we should take moving forward.  And he certainly may still speak to it.  Obviously, there’s a lot of events happening here, including the U.N. General Assembly, COVID, and others, and I wouldn’t rule that out.
 
Q    And just to say, respectfully — I just have a couple more questions; everyone else got questions in —
 
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.
 
Q    Respectfully, I understand that you are the spokesperson for the President.  These are images that are traumatizing Haitian Americans that he promised to treat respectfully and with humanity.  Why isn’t the President telling people himself these images that people say look like slavery are wrong?  “Me, as President — I, as President, condemn them.” How is he not doing that?  Why is he not doing that?  What — and — what are people supposed to take away from the fact that he’s not at the bully pulpit himself talking about these images?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Yamiche, I think people should take away that his actions make clear how horrible and horrific he thinks these images are, including an investigation, including a change of policy, including conveying clearly that this is not acceptable and this is — he’s not going to stand for this in the Biden-Harris administration. 
 
Our actions make that absolutely crystal clear, as have our engagements with a range of voices, a range of concerned advocates, members of Congress, and others who we want to communicate with not just about our horror, but also about what our immigration policy is moving forward.
 
Q    Daniel Foote also said in his letter — he called the U.S. policy “inhumane,” “deeply flawed.”  Does the President believe anything in this letter that Daniel Foote is saying rings true, has some sort of point that he believes is true?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Which aspect?
 
Q    He called the — he called the policy toward Haiti “inhumane.”  He said that —
 
MS. PSAKI:  He wasn’t specific in his letter.  What I noted earlier before —
 
Q    He was quite specific in his letter.  He —
 
MS. PSAKI:  Let me finish, Yamiche. 
 
Q    Okay.
 
MS. PSAKI:  What I noted earlier before is that we have taken very specific actions as it relates to the horrific photos that we’ve — that are not — we’re not going to stand for in this administration.  I don’t know if he was referring to that or something else; that’s why I asked — raised the point.

Q    Well, he was talking about the deportations (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI:  His purview — let me finish, Yamiche — his purview was not about migration.  He didn’t raise his concerns about migration privately.  We respect his point of view, respect his ability to bring forward concerns, to raise ideas, to raise proposals.  That’s certainly something the President welcomes from everybody on his team and something that he had the opportunity to do in a range of meetings.

We also have to make decisions here based on what we feel are going to help promote democracy in Haiti, including le- — Haitian-led reforms, Haitian-led steps on the ground to make changes in the country.

Q    I talked to a number of people who say that he did raise concerns over the deportation of Haitians and the treatment of Haitians.  Are you saying then that Daniel Foote is not telling the truth in this letter?

MS. PSAKI:  I would point you to the State Department, who have conveyed clearly in their statement what I just said.

Q    And one last question.  I promise.

MS. PSAKI:  Yep.

Q    The last question is: Daniel Foote, the former Special Envoy to Haiti, he’s raising this idea that the U.S. should be listening to Haitian civil society, not backing the current prime minister who was not elected by the people.  What’s the President’s response to that?  Because those civil society members have been telling me and other reporters for months, even before the assassination of the president, that President Biden was not listening to the people of Haiti about how to move forward their government. 

MS. PSAKI:  Yamiche, we support a Haitian-led process charting the country’s course through the current political situation.  We don’t back any one political group.  And we continue to — continue to encourage all political stakeholders to engage in dialogue and find solutions together.  And that has been our objective through all of our policy process-making throughout the course of this, in addition to providing a range of assistance, training to people on the ground.

Go ahead. 

Q    Thanks, Jen.  A couple of questions on COVID — one having to do with masks and the airlines.  About a little more than 4,000 incidents reported of unruly passengers.  Senator Dick Durbin has said that fines don’t appear to be working.  Now, we understand they just doubled, but they don’t appear to be working.  He’s calling for criminal charges.  Would the administration support that?

MS. PSAKI:  That’s not a policy decision we made.  We obviously just announced the doubling of fines last week, and we’re hopeful it will have an impact on people behaving in a safer way on flights.

Q    One more question on COVID.  When it comes to people who are resistant to the vaccine — it’s not “hesitant,” but “resistant” — outside of mandates, is there any discussion —

MS. PSAKI:  When you —

Q    — going on —

MS. PSAKI:  Oh, sorry, I’ll let you continue and then I’ll ask a — go ahead.

Q    — discussions going on about messaging and how to reach people who would just say, “I’m never going to take that vaccine”?  Is there a new approach being discussed, outside of the policy that’s going to be a new rule through the Labor Department?  I should be more specific. 

MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.  So, one, I think if we go back to December, only about 30 percent of people in this country were willing to take a vaccine.  Now we’re at over 75 percent of people who have received at least one dose.  So, clearly, there has been progress made in addressing people’s questions, addressing hesitancy or resistance, whatever it may be. 

And we’ve taken a range of steps — not just the la- — the announcement made just last week about mandates; prior to that.  Part of that has been relying on local messengers, part of that has been making the vaccine broadly accessible to everybody in the country, making it as easy as humanly possible to get vaccinated. 

And we’re going to continue to deploy those tactics as well, because we’ve seen them as effective and we’ve seen them work in a range of communities, getting us to a point of over 75 percent.

Q    Can I follow up on COVID, please, Jen?

MS. PSAKI:  Sure.

Q    So, yesterday, the President, in his remarks, mentioned working together with partners to increase global vaccine capacity, including this upcoming meeting with the Quad.  But one thing that he did not mention was anything about supporting the TRIPS waiver or waiving the patent technology at the WTO, which many experts say will be the game changer in terms of boosting global capacity.  So is this no longer a priority for the administration?

MS. PSAKI:  Well, he supported the TRIPS waiver.  It’s a process being led by our amba- —

Q    (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI:  — let me finish — our ambassador.  It’s an ongoing process.  We said from the beginning it would be a lengthy process.  I have not seen many advocates say this is the silver bullet and the thing that is going to provide everybody with vaccines around the world. 

We — it’s something the President supports, we support in his administration, and there is an important global process that is ongoing. 

What we feel our role is also is not just providing, as the world’s biggest supplier — provider of vaccines to the global community — more than every other country combined — but also working with our Quad partners to produce at least 1 billion vaccine doses; boosting vaccine manufacturing in South Africa to produce more than 500 million single-dose regimens in Africa, for Africa; ensuring we’re produc- — increasing capacity around the world; and increasing and sharing — sharing know-how with the global community as well. 
 
All of these steps are essential.  And, certainly, we continue to support the TRIPS waiver.

I’m just going to — I just want to get around to a bunch of people.  Go ahead.

Q    Can I just follow up on that, on Haiti?  Just to clarify on Haiti, Jen —

Q    Thank you, Jen.

Q    Just to clarify: Yesterday, DHS said that they will not be sending Texas migrants — I’m sorry, migrants at the Texas border to Guantanamo, but there’s still conflicting media reports about this.  Can you definitively clarify whether or not the administration will send migrants at the border to Guantanamo?

MS. PSAKI:  We will not.  There’s never been a plan to do that.  I think there was some confusion related to a — the Migrant Operations Center, which is used — has been used for decades to process migrants interdicted at sea for third country resettlement. 

This request for information that went out publicly yesterday, which I think caused some confusion because of the timing, was posted in a typical routine first step in a contract renewal and unrelated to the southern border.

Go ahead. 

Q    Thank you, Jen.  I have a question about the numbers that you gave and the math.  So, there are 15,000 migrants under the Del Rio Bridge Saturday.  If you add up the ones that you say were expelled or released, it’s less than 5,000.  Say there’s 5,000 that are still left, where’s everybody else?

MS. PSAKI:  I’m happy to get you a more fruitful rundown for you if you — if helpful, from the Department of Homeland Security.

Q    Okay.  And when you talk about how some of these people are being placed in removal proceedings, that does not mean “removed,” correct?

MS. PSAKI:  That means they’re in the process of going through a removal proceeding so that we can — it can go through the process — our immigration process — that’s long been in place. 

Q  We understand that, basically, most of these people that are going into removal proceedings are being put on either buses from Del Rio to El Paso and Laredo, or being flown to Tucson with no COVID tested — testing, unless they show symptoms.  How is that helping anybody stop the spread?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Again, we have a protocol and process in place as it relates to COVID in terms of testing and quarantining, and also vaccines are provided for a range of migrants by our partner organizations in the region.
 
What is happening now is that — as I outlined yesterday — is that if individuals cannot be expelled under Title 42, they are placed in removal proceedings, as you referred to.  That may — that may require them being placed in ICE detainment facilities, or it may require being — them being given a notice to appear where biometric data and other data is taken.  In terms of their transportation methods, I’d certainly point you to the Department of Homeland Security.
 
Q    But why should somebody, say, in Laredo, Texas, or El Paso, or Tucson, Arizona, have to have their chance of catching COVID go up because, hundreds of miles away, there is an open border?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, there certainly is not an open border.  We are continuing to employ our immigration proceedings and process and restrictions at the border, and that includes the implementation of enforcing Title 42, which is an authority — a public health authority.  It includes moving people into either a process for expedited removal or removal proceedings.  That is our immigration process that we are proceeding underneath.
 
Q    And just a final follow-up.  You say the border is not open, but we’re told by our teams on the ground you guys are releasing pretty much all family units, couples where the woman says that she is pregnant, or single women who say that they are pregnant, and that nobody actually has to take a pregnancy test unless they want to.  So, how —
 
MS. PSAKI:  Are you suggesting you don’t believe when women say they’re pregnant?  Is that a big issue, we think, at the border?
 
Q    I am not in charge of keeping the border secure.  You guys are.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Do you think pregnant women are posing a big threat to the border —
 
Q    You tell me.
 
MS. PSAKI:  — to the border communities?  Is that a big issue?
 
Q    You tell me.
 
MS. PSAKI:  I’m not aware of pregnant women being a big issue of concern to people at the border.
 
What I will note for you, Peter, is that, as I said earlier, there is a process if people cannot be expelled under Title 42 for a range of reasons.  Some of that is because countries they came from or other countries, including Mexico, may not be accepting families with children under the age of seven.  They are placed in removal proceedings.  Those removal proceedings require them to either go to a detention facility or require them to go get a notice to appear, and including providing their biometric data and otherwise so that they can be — we can ensure we know where they are and we can ensure we know when they’re going to come back.
 
So, that’s what the process is.  If there’s a big outrage about pregnant women —
 
Q    No.  The issue is not —
 
MS. PSAKI:  — I’m not tracking it.
 
Q    The issue is not about pregnant women.  The issue is: Is the border open or is the border closed?  Because my understanding is that a lot of this is happening on this side of the border. 
 
MS. PSAKI:  I think you know the answer to that question.  And I just conveyed clearly that we’re implementing our border restrictions, including Title 42, including making clear that people who are coming through irregular migration — that this is not the time to come and they will be placed in removal proceedings.
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Hi, Jen.  Yesterday, Minority Leader McConnell and Senator Scott held a news conference in which they essentially argued Democrats control the White House and both chambers of Congress so it’s completely on them to raise the debt ceiling.  Do you have any response to that?  And does a debt ceiling fight — does that complicate the President’s ability to get his agenda passed and deal with some of these other crises he’s handling?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well, let’s just take a step back here.  So, these same Republicans, including Leader McConnell — or former Leader McConnell, no longer “Leader” — including Senator McConnell, who felt, during the Trump administration, that we could absolutely not risk defaulting, that it would be devastating to our economy.  I can provide you the quotes; I have the receipts. 
 
He, at the same time, feels that way, or they all feel that way, but they are refusing to vote to increase the debt limit. 
 
So, what are we doing here exactly?  They are playing with the faith and credit of the United States Treasury.  This is not a game to the President.  This is our economy.  This is not about partisanship.  This is about doing what has been done 80 times in the past and raising the debt limit, including three times under the last administration, even after $2 trillion in Trump tax cuts that were unpaid for were passed. 
 
So that’s my comment on that.  What was the other piece of your question?
 
Q    Does that complicate your ability — if you have to have a debt ceiling fight, and we’re going to have the economic turmoil that those fights bring on, does that complicate the ability to get some of the other things that you’re working on done: reconciliation pas- — package, the dealing with COVID-19, dealing with border, all of these things?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, I would say in terms of the legislative agenda, our ideal would be for the Senate to vote and pass the CR that included raising the debt limit that the House passed earlier this week.  Let’s move on.  Let’s do what we’ve done 80 times in the past.  Let’s ensure that people can have confidence in the faith and credit of the United States.  That would be our preference. 
 
So, certainly, spending time on that; having people worry about whether the government is shut down, which we’re working to prevent; having people, businesses, economic experts, the American people worry about the debt limit — that’s not our ideal.  We think we should be able to avoid that.  And, certainly, that would allow more time to move on with the rest of the agenda, whether it’s confirming nominees, getting the rest of the agenda passed, whatever it may be. 
 
Q    And then one question on the border.  You mentioned, yesterday, that the agents involved in videos, they’ve been placed on administrative leave.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Yeah.
 
Q    You’ve laid out the policy changes.  What reper- — what repercussions, once an investigation is completed, could those agents face if it’s determined that they had committed wrongdoing?  Would they be fired?  Would there be a transfer?  Can you — can you just talk about some of the repercussions that — after we get past the leave and the investigation?
 
MS. PSAKI:  Sure.  Well, the Secretary of Homeland Security made clear he wants that investigation to be completed by next week.  And part of that process will be determining what happens on a personnel level, also on a policy level — even though he conveyed, today, one of the policy steps that will be taken. 
 
So, I’m not going to get ahead of that process.  That’s why the process is in place.  And I’m sure once it’s completed, we’ll have more to say. 
 
Go ahead.
 
Q    Thank you, Jen.  Help us figure out something about the travel restrictions. 
 
MS. PSAKI:  Okay.
 
Q    Starting — and beginning of — the beginning of November, people from 33 countries — for instance, Iran, where 15 percent of the population is fully vaccinated; or Brazil, 39 percent; India, 15 percent — and then we look at Canada, 71 percent of people are fully vaccinated and still the border will remain closed.  So, obviously, hasn’t — it’s not a —
 
MS. PSAKI:  People can fly from Canada, right?
 
Q    Yes, but they can’t drive through the border.  I mean, it’s not easy to drive from Iran or from — from Europe, but —
 
MS. PSAKI:  That’s true.
 
Q    — it’s much easier from Canada.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Fair point.  (Laughter.)
 
Q    Seventy-one percent of the people are fully vaccinated.  So, it’s not a health decision, because if it was, we would — I mean, Canada is within the first 15 country most fully vaccinated in the world.  So it’s not —
 
MS. PSAKI:  Well —
 
Q    — a health decision.
 
MS. PSAKI:  — land restrictions, which as you know, have been renewed through — through, I think, about October 21st.  But we’re continuing to evaluate and make policy decisions.
 
I would say that it is a health decision by requiring vaccinations, and we wanted to do it in a way that was equitable.  So people who are vaccinated, no matter which country they’re coming from — obviously, they need visas and the proper documentation, et cetera — they would be able to come to the United States through that. 
 
Land restrictions, I don’t have an update for you on where that stands beyond: It’s been extended; we’re continuing to consider additional steps.
 
Q    Thanks, Jen.
 
MS. PSAKI:  Okay.  Thanks, everyone. 
 
12:59 P.M. EDT