Vice President Kamala Harris will finally visit the U.S.-Mexico border on Friday, making a stop in El Paso, Texas, along with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Politico reported Wednesday.
While the vice president is there, she might want to visit the vast, tent-like detention center for migrant youth at Fort Bliss, which is housing some 2,000 migrant teens in deplorable, nightmarish conditions. If she goes, she’ll be able to see first-hand the grave consequences of the Biden administration’s border policies. That’s why she probably won’t go.
But if Harris does go to Fort Bliss, she should be careful. According to a recent investigation by the BBC, there’s an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak at the shelter, where “hundreds of children have tested positive for Covid,” according to one employee. The migrant kids there have dubbed a cluster of quarantine tents “Covid City.”
There have also been outbreaks of strep throat and the flu, as well as persistent lice infestations. One tent of about 800 girls was locked down last month because of lice. The government contractor that runs the facility apparently hasn’t been able to procure enough lice kits to deal with the problem.
The vice president’s handlers will probably also want to keep her away from the food at the shelter, which is reportedly undercooked and often inedible, according to BBC interviews with migrant teens recently discharged from there. “Sometimes the chicken had blood, the meat very red,” one boy said. “We couldn’t stand our hunger and we ate it, but we got sick from it.”
Disease and inadequate food aren’t the only problems at the overcrowded, unlicensed shelter, which is run by government contractors. Children report that there are too few showers and bathrooms and laundry facilities, so they often go weeks without bathing or changing their clothes. There have also been disturbing reports of staff sexually abusing migrant children, including one report of rape.
The BBC investigation is just one account of the neglect and filthy conditions at the Biden administration’s emergency migrant shelters, which were hastily set up to deal with an historic surge of unaccompanied minors illegally crossing the border this spring. An article in Border Report this week outlined similar conditions at other shelters, as recorded in interviews with migrant children that were included in federal court filings Monday.
“In their accounts, the children — who are not named in the court filings — describe waiting for weeks or more than a month in facilities with little to do, minimal education and no knowledge of when they will be allowed to leave,” according to the report.
One 13-year-old girl from Honduras, who was on suicide watch, said she couldn’t sleep at night because the lights were always on, and that she was eating only popsicles and juice because the food was foul and inedible. At the time of her interview with court-appointed advocates, she had been in the facility for nearly 60 days.
The Biden administration, which earlier this year was criticized for housing migrant kids for weeks on end in crude border facilities run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, has boasted of moving kids out of those facilities into these emergency shelters. The idea was to quickly get them out of government custody and release them to a parent, relative, or other sponsor inside the United States.
But according to the government’s June report to a federal court in Los Angeles, more than 2,100 children were housed at these emergency shelters for more than 40 days, and more than 2,600 were housed at the shelters between 20 and 40 days.
Based on the few accounts we do have — news media have not been allowed into these facilities after the administration imposed a media blackout earlier this year — these emergency shelters are no place for children to stay long. At a Houston shelter that has since closed, one 17-year-old girl from El Salvador said she couldn’t shower for eight days and was told to wear her underwear inside out because there was no laundry. “We spent most of the day in our beds at Houston because there was nothing else to do,” she said. “I felt very desperate.”
Make no mistake, this is the Biden administration’s doing. Upon taking office, Biden signed a series of executive orders that reversed key Trump-era border policies that had helped to reduce illegal immigration. By rescinding those policies, Biden broadcast to the world that if unaccompanied children cross the border illegally, they will be allowed to stay.
The entirely predictable result was that record numbers of children were trafficked across the border, overwhelming federal authorities and dangerously crowding border facilities during the pandemic.
Now, the administration is preparing to open the border up even more, admitting families and possibly even single adults who, under President Donald Trump, had been quickly expelled as a pandemic precaution. According to Axios, the Biden administration could end all such expulsion for families as soon as July 31.
As of this writing, details of Harris’s upcoming trip are scant, but news of the visit comes amid a fusillade of criticism from both Republicans and Democrats at the vice president’s refusal thus far to visit the border amid a worsening crisis. It also comes about a week after Trump announced that he would be visiting the border. A large group of House Republicans said Wednesday they would join Trump. Faced with the prospect of being one-upped by Trump, Harris has finally, begrudgingly assented to a border visit.
This visit, though, will be unlike her last visit to the border. During the Trump administration, Democrats, including Harris, routinely went to the border for photo ops, lambasting Trump for keeping “kids in cages” and, in the case of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, famously weeping for the cameras outside youth migrant shelters. In 2018, Harris visited a migrant youth detention center in San Diego and said Trump’s immigration policies amount to “a human rights abuse.”
As record numbers of migrant kids now languish in conditions that by many accounts are worse than anything that obtained under Trump, one has to wonder what Harris thinks the Biden administration’s policies amount to. We’ll likely never know, because there’s almost no chance Harris will visit the miserable tent-camp at Fort Bliss.
From her perspective, why would she? It would just confirm what everyone already knows: Biden and Harris have created a humanitarian disaster at the border, and they have no plan to fix it.