White House says border security 'commitment' with Northern Triangle countries was not 'formal'

"We never described it as a formal declaration."
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Apr. 16

The White House on Friday appeared to walk back an earlier claim that it has secured a border security agreement with several countries to the south of the U.S., with Press Secretary Jen Psaki claiming that the agreement in question was never actually a formal one. 

Psaki earlier this week said at a press conference that lately the U.S. has been engaged in "a series of bilateral discussions" with "the regional governments of Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala," and that from those talks there emerged "a commitment ... to increase border security."

The "commitment," Psaki said, was for several thousand troops split between the countries, reportedly with the goal of "mak[ing] it more difficult to make the journey and make crossing the borders ... more difficult."

Yet the U.S. Special Envoy for the Northern Triangle at a congressional hearing this week claimed that "there were no agreements concluded with governments regarding border security." When pressed on that claim a Friday press conference, Psaki admitted that the "commitment" was in fact never formalized between the countries. 

"Well, whether or not it was a formal agreement — which it was not, and I never conveyed that it was — these were steps that these countries indicated they planned to take to increase personnel and security to reduce the number of migrants coming across the border," she said. "Those are steps they’ve taken on the ground."

"We never described it as a formal declaration or a formal agreement," she added, "but additional steps that they were taking to increase personnel at the border."

The Biden administration has been struggling to deal with an unexpected crush of illegal immigrants at the southern border, many of whom made long treks from countries south of Mexico.