The Biden administration reopened a migrant facility in Texas that had been shuttered during Trump’s presidency, according to The Washington Post.
The Trump administration opened a facility in Carrizo in 2019 but it was shuttered after just one month. The Biden administration this week reopened the facility, which can hold up to 700 children between the ages of 13 and 17.
Government officials defended the move, citing an increase in unaccompanied children crossing the border in January and reductions to the number of available facilities due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mark Weber, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, told the Post that the administration is moving away from the “law-enforcement focused” approach of the previous administration to a focus on child welfare.
Immigration groups oppose:
Immigration activists and attorneys said the new facility was unnecessary and cited substandard conditions at similar facilities around the country.
“It’s unnecessary, it’s costly, and it goes absolutely against everything [President] Biden promised he was going to do,” Texas immigration attorney Linda Brandmiller told the Post. “It’s a step backward, is what it is. It’s a huge step backward.”
Biden campaign on reversing many of Trump’s immigration policies. He signed multiple executive orders to roll back or review some of his predecessor’s policies and introduced a proposal to provide a path to citizenship for up to 11 million undocumented immigrants.
“This is done deliberately to shelve these children in places that are not only not readily accessible, but not accessible at all to anyone who cares about the quality of life of these kids, and whether or not they comply with the federal law,” Brandmiller said. “If they were actually addressing the issues that are endemic in a system that has been established for many years and is flawed, if they were addressing the inadequacies instead of creating a parallel jail for kids, I would have more hope."
Facility to close after pandemic:
Weber told the Post that the facility is expected to close when the pandemic ends.
Weber said that HHS had 13,200 beds for children but half of them are restricted due to pandemic guidelines. There are about 7,000 children in HHS custody, which is more than 90% capacity under the guidelines.
“Every kid that comes into this program is a symptom of a broken immigration system,” Weber said. “So today, we’ve got over 7,000 symptoms of a broken immigration system.”
Weber said that the facilities keep kids from ending up in Border Patrol stations that do not have cells for children. Workers at the facilities work to reunite the children with sponsors, who are usually family members or family friends.
“If we could find another way, that’d be great,” Weber said. “On the flip side, these kids just come in and they’re turned loose on the street, they end up being homeless kids.”