More than 700 migrant children who crossed into the United States without their parents are being held in the custody of U.S. border patrol as of Sunday.
Record numbers of immigrants are crossing the U.S-Mexico border – many children and teenagers without parents – causing the Biden administration to reopen shelters to hold the children until they can be placed with a guardian.
Biden overturned many of Donald Trump‘s immigration policies with a swipe of his executive pen when he became president – including reversing Trump’s policy of expelling minors who arrive without their parents.
Since then, the number of minors in federal custody has tripled to more than 7,000 causing the Biden administration to reopen shelters in Carrizo Springs, Texas and in Homestead, Florida, where now-Vice President Kamala Harris protested outside of in June 2019.
The Carrizo Springs, Texas facility will hold up to 700 children ages 13 through 17 to allow proper social distancing as the Biden administration struggles to deal with rising tide of immigrants – many unaccompanied minors
Children line up to enter a tent at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in February 2019 – the shelter is being reopened due to rising migrant numbers
It’s also raised questions about the children’s welfare after minors were separated from their families under the Trump administration – a policy that the then-president eventually reversed due to heavy public pressure.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday defended the administration’s position and said the children were not being kept in cages but ‘difficult choices’ were being made.
‘We have a number of unaccompanied minors — children — who are coming into the country without their families. What we are not doing — what the last administration did was separate those kids, rip them from the arms of their parents at the border. We are not doing that. That is immoral, and that is not the approach of this administration,’ she said.
Psaki said the administration would not make the ‘dangerous’ choice of sending kids back across the border nor would they place them with unvetted guardians – leaving the only option of holding them in shelters operated by the Department of Health and Human Services.
She also pointed out that due to COVID precautions, more shelters are needed to give the children space for social distancing.
‘We had to expand and open additional facilities because there was not enough space in the existing facilities — if we were to abide by COVID protocols,’ she said.
‘This is a difficult situation. It’s a difficult choice. That’s the choice we’ve made,’ she added.
And the situation could get worse.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement email obtained by The Washington Post shows the Biden administration is already in crisis mode when it comes to immigration policy.
‘We need to prepare for border surges now,’ Timothy Perry, ICE’s chief of staff, wrote in the Feb. 12 email. ‘We need to begin making changes immediately.’
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told senior officials ‘to prepare for border surges now,’ Perry wrote. ‘We need to begin making changes immediately. We should privilege action over cost considerations; do what is needed, and the department will work on funding afterward.’
The Biden administration is so concerned about running out of shelter space, it authorized shelters to buy airline tickets for minors who already have relatives living in the United States, according to a HHS email obtained by The Post.
President Joe Biden facing a mounting immigration crisis amid global pandemic
Now-Vice President Kamala Harris was one of several Democratic presidential contenders who protested outside the Homestead facility when the candidates were in Miami for the first presidential debate in June 2019 – Senator Kirsten Gillibrand also protested
In the past four months, federal officials have taken more than 70,000 migrants a month into custody.
And, in January, the number of unaccompanied children coming over the border was more than 5,700, up from 4,855 the month before.
Some Democrats have slammed President Biden for reopening the shelters, which were a flashpoint in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary with many contenders blasting the Trump administration for separating children from their families.
Harris was one of several Democratic presidential contenders who protested outside the Homestead facility when the candidates were in Miami for the first presidential debate in June 2019.
‘This is not okay,’ Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter of the Biden administration’s decision to re-open shelters.
‘This is not okay, never has been okay, never will be okay – no matter the administration or party,’ she wrote.