WASHINGTON, D.C. – The White House confirmed Friday that President Joe Biden will launch a task force focused on reuniting families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during her daily briefing that Biden will announce the task force Tuesday and Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s nominee for homeland security secretary, will lead the task force.
“It’s something that he’s personally committed to, his wife Dr. Biden is personally committed to and invested in, and he plans to make that announcement next Tuesday,” said Psaki.
Psaki also said Biden will deliver remarks and sign an executive order on “advancing his priority to modernize our immigration system” on Tuesday.
She added that the administration wanted to enact the immigration executive order sooner, but they’re waiting for the confirmation of Mayorkas.
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Psaki also outlined two other events Biden will participate in next week. Monday he will meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department. And on Friday, the president will deliver remarks on the economy and getting Americans back to work.
When asked about who Americans should listen to, their governors or the White House, Psaki said the administration is working to provide more concrete guidance from the federal government on steps people can take to keep themselves safe.
“It will ultimately be up to the states, to governors, to local school districts and others to make determinations, but we do want to provide more clear guidance from the federal government based on the expertise of health and medical experts on what people should follow and what will keep the American people safe,” said Psaki.
Though she didn’t elaborate very much, Psaki said the administration and its COVID-19 team are keeping a close eye on the emerging coronavirus variants and their impacts.
“Our team has been monitoring variants as there have been developments around the world and their potential to travel here. It reemphasizes the importance of getting vaccines into the arms of Americans, something out health team has said will make people safer and also reiteration the need to get the American Rescue Plan passed, so we can be sure to expedite that effort,” said Psaki.
The White House briefing came as Johnson & Johnson released the results of its COVID-19 vaccine trial.
While Johnson & Johnson's vaccine candidate was not as effective in preventing the virus as the vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, it would be the first single-shot COVID-19 if approved. A single-shot vaccine could potentially solve help resolve several logistical issues in getting shots in the arms of Americans.
Psaki said Biden is encouraged by positive data on a potential new vaccine.
“He also knows that this is just new data and now is the time for the FDA to do its job of evaluating the safety and efficacy of the vaccine,” said Psaki. “In the meantime, he continues to urge all Americans to mask up and follow public health guidelines until it’s their turn to get vaccinated.”
The briefing also came days after Pakistan's Supreme Court voted to free Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh, a man convicted of murdering an American journalist in 2002. On Thursday, press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House was "outraged" by the decision.
The Pakistani Sindh provincial government filed an appeal to the decision on Friday, which is expected to be overruled., meaning Sheikh could soon be freed.
The briefing also came as the Biden administration faces criticism from conservatives regarding the president's early use of executive orders. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday said that "you can't legislate by executive action unless you are a dictator."
Psaki on Thursday pointed to Biden's campaign promises to undo Trump-era policies — particularly regarding immigration and climate change — that were enacted by their own executive orders. Psaki also pointed to Biden's continued work leading the negotiations on new COVID-19 stimulus talks.