The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has asked for volunteers to send to the US-Mexico border ‘as soon as this weekend’ as a south Texas migrant complex is seven times over capacity and reports are surfacing of children being forced to sleep on floors of detention centers.
Michael Meade, ICE’s acting assistant director for field operations called for the ‘immediate’ deployment of available personnel to the border in an urgent email to senior staff Thursday night as he warned the challenging circumstances will likely ‘grow over the coming months’.
More than 3,500 unaccompanied teens and children have been held in Customs Border Patrol (CBP) detention centers designed for adults in recent days as the influx of migrants along the border has left the Health and Human Services’ shelters busting at the seams and unable to take in any more.
Children must legally be transferred from CBP detention centers to the HHS shelters within 72 hours of their arrival.
But this requirement has gone out of the window as the latest data from the Department of Homeland Security shows most children are spending on average 108 hours in the cramped CBP facilities.
While the official line from the Biden administration continues to be that there is no crisis, anonymous officials warned Friday they do not have the capacity to rapidly upscale the number of beds to cater to the record number of minors and families arriving at the border.
A migrant walks amid tents at an improvised camp outside El Chaparral crossing port as he and others wait for US authorities to allow them to start their migration process in Tijuana
An entrance to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility housing unaccompanied migrant children in Donna
The CBP detained or processed a staggering 100,441 migrants in February with nearly 10,000 of those being unaccompanied children – levels not seen since 2019, when a dramatic surge in migrant family arrivals overwhelmed border facilities.
CBP staff are buckling under the weight of the demand, with the ICE calling on volunteers to send to facilities in Texas to help tackle the surge in migrants.
‘This situation mandates immediate action to protect the life and safety of federal personnel and the aliens in custody,’ Meade wrote in the email, obtained by The Washington Post.
‘Start and end dates are TBD, but could begin as soon as this weekend at location along the SWB [southwest border], most likely Texas.
‘It is anticipated that the enforcement actions will continue to grow over the coming months.’
Children at one facility in south Texas are going hungry with many reporting they have only been able to shower once in seven days as the center is at 729 percent of its legal capacity, reported CBS.
Under pandemic safety rules to allow for social distancing, the CBP holding facility in Donna is permitted to hold a maximum of 250 migrants.
On March 2, there were more than 1,800 people held in the facility, CBS reported.
The official line from the Biden administration continues to be that there is no crisis
Neha Desai, a lawyer representing migrant youth in government custody, told the outlet children are being forced to sleep on the floor due to a lack of beds while some are being held as long as seven days – more than double the legal 72-hour limit.
‘Some of the boys said that conditions were so overcrowded that they had to take turns sleeping on the floor,’ Desai said after interviewing almost a dozen unaccompanied migrant children at the center.
‘They all said they wanted to shower more and were told they couldn’t.’
Many children also said they were being denied phone calls with their family members and hadn’t been outside in days.
‘Multiple kids said the exact same sentence: ‘the only time I get up is to throw away trash or go to the bathroom,” she said.
Migrants from Central America are pictured at the Paso del Norte International Bridge after being deported
Migrants entering the US at the Paso del Norte International Bridge in El Paso, Texas on March 11
Acting CBP commissioner Troy Miller said in a press call Wednesday the children are being well looked after with welfare checks, blankets, baby formula, hot meals and showers at least every 48 hours.
‘Many of us, maybe most of us, are parents. I myself have a 6-year-old, and these Border Patrol agents go above and beyond every single day to take care of the children,’ he said.
However he admitted the agency is ‘struggling’ with the surge of migrant families and children at the facilities since President Joe Biden eased immigration rules when he came into office.
Biden lifted the Remain in Mexico policy, which kept migrants south of the border while waiting for their hearings, effectively allowing migrants who have applied for asylum to cross into the UD and begin their legal proceedings.
He also narrowed the ICE’s criteria for arrests and deportations.
Special Advisor to the president Roberta Jacobsen admitted in a White House briefing on Wednesday that the timing of the surge was ‘no coincidence’ with the change in rules.
‘We’ve seen surges before. Surges tend to respond to hope, and there was significant hope for a more humane policy after four years of pent-up demand,’ she said.
‘So I don’t know if I would call that a coincidence.’
Jacobsen said that the ‘more humane policy’ now in place has likely given rise to rumors among people traffickers of leniency.
The ‘coyotes’, as the smugglers are known, have then encouraged more migrants to pay to make the journey, she said.
‘The idea that a more humane policy would be in place may have driven people to make that decision, but perhaps, more importantly, it definitely drove smugglers to express disinformation, spread disinformation about what was now possible,’ she said.
Jacobsen said that with a $4 billion plan, Biden hopes to tackle immigration at its root causes, working to make Latin American countries safer and more prosperous, and reduce the incentive to leave.
But, in the meantime, the migrants, the centers and shelters and immigration staff are overwhelmed.
Republicans have slammed Biden’s approach with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and a group of senior lawmakers vowing to visit south Texas on Monday to see the situation firsthand.