Democrats accused Trump of putting “kids in cages,” and Trump pointed out that the chain-link partitions were built by the Obama administration.
Democrats decried the separation of children from their families, and Trump pointed out this happened under Barack Obama as well.
The Biden administration has reactivated a child migrant facility in Texas. The facility in Carrizo Springs, Tex., can hold up to 700 teenage children and is being reopened because of a surge in unaccompanied minors arriving at the border. A vestige of the Trump administration that was open for only a month in summer 2019.
But immigration lawyers and advocates question why the Biden administration would choose to reopen a Trump-era facility that was the source of protests and controversy.
From the “tent city” in Tornillo, Tex., to a sprawling for-profit facility in Homestead, Fla., emergency shelters have been criticized by advocates for immigrants, lawyers and human rights activists over their conditions, cost and lack of transparency in their operations.
“It’s unnecessary, it’s costly, and it goes absolutely against everything [President] Biden promised he was going to do,” said Linda Brandmiller, a San Antonio-based immigration lawyer who represents unaccompanied minors. “It’s a step backward, is what it is. It’s a huge step backward.”
The House Democrats introduced a plan that would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. The administration also reversed some of Trump’s expulsion practices by accepting unaccompanied children into the country, a change that also is contributing to an increase of minors in government facilities, officials said.
“When I read they were opening again, I cried,” said Rosey Abuabara, a San Antonio community activist who was arrested for protesting outside the Carrizo camp in 2019. “I consoled myself with the fact that it was considered the Cadillac of [migrant child] centers, but I don’t have any hope that Biden is going to make it better.”
She said despite what she’s heard about the camp’s amenities, the immense cost and scale of the Office of Refugee Resettlement operations points to a government program that profits from holding migrant children, who are shepherded in unmarked vans to remote areas with what she describes as little oversight.
Brandmiller, the lawyer, said people should take note of how these emergency shelters are often located in far-flung locations away from public view.
“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,” she said, referring to the Flores Settlement Agreement, which recommends children not stay in unlicensed facilities for longer than 20 days.
HHS said its goal is that children will remain at Carrizo for about 30 days, though they are coming from at least two weeks of quarantine at other Office of Refugee Resettlement facilities in the region. The average stay for children in custody across its facilities is 42 days. In the 2020 fiscal year, migrant children spent an average of 102 days in federal government custody, according to HHS.