The Biden administration is holding more than 700 unaccompanied migrant children in custody at the U.S.-Mexico border, despite their reported opposition to it.
An internal Customs and Border Protection memo obtained by Axios shows that most of the children remained in custody of Border Patrol after awaiting transfer to shelters managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. At least 200 of the kids were held for at least two days while the document showed that at least nine children were detained for longer than 72 hours, in direct violation of federal law.
Approximately 400 unaccompanied minors have already been referred to HHS shelters, a significant increase since the “peak of the 2019 crisis” when the 30-day referral average was just under 300 children.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday that, contrary to the CBP document, some migrant children have been detained a minimum of four days. Psaki quickly downplayed the longer-than-allowed holding periods, blaming the deadly snowstorm and cold weather that swept through Texas last week. Because some shelters “did not have power and were not in a place where they had the capacity to take in these kids and do it safely,” Psaki said, transfers were delayed.
“We have a couple of options: We can send them back home. … We can quickly transfer them from CPB to these HHS-run facilities. … We can put them with families and sponsors without any vetting,” Psaki said. “We’ve chosen the middle option.”
Earlier this week, Psaki also defended the Biden administration’s decision to reopen a detention center for unaccompanied migrant children in Texas by claiming it is necessary due to COVID-19. Her comments came shortly after the Washington Post ran an article reporting on the reopening of the children’s detention center in Texas paired with a photo of shipping containers with bar-covered windows.
“First migrant facility for children opens under Biden,” the headline read. The administration’s decision and the photo were ridiculed on Twitter by conservatives and others, who noted the double-standard of the media, which said the Trump administration put migrant children in “cages,” while describing the Biden administration’s cage-like shipping containers as “facilities.” Psaki, however, has insisted that the situation at the border under Biden is “absolutely not the same” as under Trump.
Despite the growing border crisis, congressional Democrats, spurred on by the Biden administration, are moving forward with an amnesty bill that seeks to grant more than 11 million illegal immigrants an eight-year pathway to citizenship, a move that Republicans largely oppose and say encourages illegal border crossings.