2:11 p.m. EDT
MS PORTER: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you so much for joining today’s State Department press briefing. I have two updates at the top before I start taking your questions.
I would like to draw your attention to the joint statement issued by Secretary Blinken and Secretary Mayorkas today about the expansion of the Central American Minors, or CAM, program, which provides certain Guatemalan, Honduran, or Salvadoran children access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
As a part of our focus on a responsible, phased approach to humanely managing migration and expanding legal pathways, we continue to reopen cases in our efforts to reunite families. Since we announced CAM’s reopening in March, we have reopened approximately 1,100 cases.
As we continue to develop and expand initiatives that provide a safe, legal, and orderly alternative to dangerous irregular migration, we are announcing today the second phase of the CAM reopening that will expand the ability of tens of thousands of U.S.-based individuals to petition for children to access the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program through CAM.
Petitioner eligibility will now be extended to legal guardians, in addition to parents, who are lawfully present in the United States.
This expansion will also allow certain parents and legal guardians who have a pending asylum application or a pending U visa petition, filed prior to May 15th, 2021, the ability to reunite with their children.
This is just one component of the President’s multi-pronged approach to address the challenges of irregular migration through and from Central America.
The steps we are taking reflect our values as a nation and represent our continued commitment to ensure that we treat people with dignity and respect, and that we protect the most vulnerable people, especially our children.
And as you might have seen, Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Lisa Peterson is in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC, from June 14th through June 16th – I’m sorry, June 18th – representing the United States in the first ever U.S.-DRC bilateral human rights dialogue.
The dialogue is an opportunity to have an open discussion about the most pressing democratic and human rights issues facing the country and how the United States can support the DRC in its efforts to advance respect for democracy and human rights.
This dialogue is focused on promoting accountability for human rights abuses, ongoing Congolese preparations for an on-time, free, and fair election in 2023, continued progress in combating trafficking in persons under President Tshisekedi, and protecting and preserving fundamental freedoms.
With that, we’ll give it a few minutes before we start taking your questions.
Let’s go to Shaun Tandon.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Shaun Tandon’s line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. Hope you’re well. I was wondering if you had anything to say about the march that’s going ahead today in Jerusalem. Does the State Department have any concerns about it? What’s your assessment of how it’s going, and what’s your message to the two sides on how to handle this?
If you can allow me, just briefly something else as well. The Hungarian parliament passed a law that – it aimed at prohibiting quote-unquote “promotion of homosexuality.” How does the State Department see that? Will this at all affect relations with Prime Minister Orban? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thank you, Shaun. To your first question, well, we certainly don’t have an assessment to state from here, but what we can say is we believe that it’s essential for all parties to refrain from any steps that exacerbate tensions.
And to your second question, I’ll just lead with, of course, as you know, the United States is centering our foreign policy around human rights. And of course, that includes the struggle to end discrimination, criminalization, as well as stigma against LGBTQI persons all around the world. And of course, that is essential to the commitment that we have to fundamental freedoms for people who are individuals not only in the United States, but to our partners and allies globally as well.
So we’re certainly aware of the law that passed today, and of course it raises concerns about, again, what I said about freedoms of expression, as well as the restrictions on – which have no place in democratic societies. The United States is actually committed to strengthening our partnership with Hungary, as well as advancing the Biden administration’s support for democratic institutions, human rights, as well as rule of law globally.
Let’s go to Jiha Ham.
OPERATOR: Ms. Ham’s line is open.
QUESTION: Okay. Hi, Jalina. Thank you for taking my question. So North Korea yesterday released a statement criticizing Japan because Japan is holding a symposium in the UN over the abduction issue later this month. North Korea claimed that the abduction issue was already resolved. But as you know, not only Japanese but also many South Koreans were taken to North Korea in the past. How do you view this issue? Could you tell us if the new policy on North Korea can handle this abduction issue, along with other critical issues? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Jiha. So to your specific question on North Korea and Japan, I’d have to refer you to those governments. But from our end, our policy on the DPRK has not changed.
Let’s go to Simon Lewis, please.
OPERATOR: Simon Lewis’s line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks, Jalina. I wanted to see if you have any response to some calls coming out of meeting of Arab states in Qatar today, who are asking for the UN Security Council to discuss and step in over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or the GERD. Does the U.S. – would the U.S. sort of welcome that, and would you like to see that brought up in the Security Council, and is there any specific action that you would advocate for in that forum? Thanks.
MS PORTER: So on that issue, we don’t have any updates or any announcements today. But what I will say, broadly speaking, is that the United States continues to support collaborative as well as constructive efforts by Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan in order to reach an arrangement on the GERD. And of course, we understand the importance of the Nile water to all three of those countries, and we’ll continue to encourage resumption of productive dialogue on the GERD. But outside of that, I have nothing to preview at this time.
Let’s go to Tracy Wilkinson.
MS PORTER: Hi.
QUESTION: He didn’t say my line was open; I was waiting. Okay. On the Central American Minors Program, can you – so this is going to vastly or largely expand the number of potential petitioners for people who want to bring their kids up. Do you have any estimate, ballpark figures of how many people – how many additional cases and kids we’re talking about could come up, could be – their arrival could be applied for? And I understand all of the processing is going to take place in the home country, so my question – the second question is whether you’ve had – what kind of discussions you’ve had with the governments of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala for their cooperation in this. Thanks.
MS PORTER: So I’ll just say at the top – so in the restart of the CAM Program we’ve identified a little over 3,100 cases – that’d be 3,162 cases to be exact – representing 3,828 individuals. Right now we just can’t speculate on how many may ultimately be resettled as refugees or be admitted via parole status.
Now to your second question on any dialogue, I have nothing to preview at this time.
Let’s go to Laura Kelly.
OPERATOR: Laura Kelly, your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. Hi, Jalina. Thanks for taking my question. The Iranian presidential elections are set to take place this Friday and polling indicates a low turnout of voters. How is the administration viewing the legitimacy of these elections? And if I may, what is the impact that the Iranian presidential elections have on U.S. discussions in Vienna to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action?
MS PORTER: Well, we’re – I’m certainly not in the position to determine or state from here – to determine the legitimacy of Iran’s elections, and we certainly won’t get ahead of that this Friday. That’s something for the Iranian people to decide for themselves.
And just to your point on the talks in Vienna, as you know our Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley is in his sixth round of talks in Vienna this week, and again, I’ll continue to underscore that meaningful process continues to be made on the language necessary to address nuclear and sanctions-related issues. But of course, there are – outstanding issues remain on both of them, as well. These meetings, of course, have been productive but they’re ongoing, so outside of that I don’t have anything to announce as well.
Let’s go to Jessica Donati.
OPERATOR: Jessica Donati, your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. I just wanted to follow up with Tracy’s question. In the opening, you said that this could affect potentially tens of thousands of cases for children, but then later you said that there was just going – you only identified three to four thousand. I was wondering if you could clarify.
MS PORTER: Yeah, my clarification was, again, in the restart of the CAM Program where identified – where we identified over 3,000 cases, which was 3,162 cases representing 3,828 individuals. Beyond that, if you have any other specific questions we’d be happy to take that for you, but that’s all we have to preview for today.
Let’s go to Michele Kelemen.
OPERATOR: Michele Kelemen, your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you. The new Israeli foreign minister is indicating that he wants to improve relations with Democrats in Washington, restore kind of the bipartisan nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship. And I’m wondering, would the State Department help facilitate that, and when might we see a visit by Yair Lapid? I saw that Blinken has – the Secretary has invited Lapid to Washington.
MS PORTER: For now, we don’t have any visits to announce at this time. And when it comes to their relations with Congress, we’ll leave that to members of the House and senators to determine their engagement, but that’s something that we wouldn’t facilitate or do anything like that from here.
Let’s go to Soyoung Kim.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you.
OPERATOR: Soyoung Kim, your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you. South Korea’s minister of reunification was supposed to visit the U.S. for the U.S.-South Korea working group meeting to mainly discuss North Korea issues sometime this month, but it was called off with no official details. Do you know the reason why the plan was canceled, and when do you think the next meeting is possible and reschedule?
And just a briefly follow-up question: Is the U.S. still trying to reach out to the North Korea or waiting until there is response from the North? Any update? Thank you.
MS PORTER: So your – the first question you asked, we’re going to have to take back to you. And to your second question on engagement, we don’t have anything to update you on today or any announcements to make.
OPERATOR: Soyoung’s line is open again.
QUESTION: Oh, the first question? Excuse me?
MS PORTER: Thanks. I believe we’ve asked – we’ve answered Soyoung’s questions. Thank you very much.
OPERATOR: Thank you.
MS PORTER: We can go to Doug Byun.
OPERATOR: There is no one by that name in the question queue.
MS PORTER: Okay. We’re going to take our last question from Said.
QUESTION: Thank you, Jalina. Can you hear me?
MS PORTER: Yes, I can hear you.
QUESTION: Jalina, just to follow up on Shaun’s question, it is really getting out of hand with this march. The Israelis are arresting all kinds of Palestinians, including my colleagues, journalists who are covering the event. And it’s a very volatile situation. The Israelis did not heed your call to hold back on this march. So are you not concerned that this may get out of hand and we may end up in a situation that we had in last May? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thank you for your question, Said. From here, again, I’ll continue to underscore that we believe it’s essential for all parties to refrain from any steps that would exacerbate tensions.
And with that, thank you all for joining today’s press briefing, and I hope you have a wonderful week ahead.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:31 p.m.)