When President Trump was in office, critics said his immigration policies resulted in children being held in "cages." Now that President Biden has reopened what it calls an "emergency facility" in Carrizo Springs, Texas, for immigrant minors, his critics are accusing him of hypocrisy. Coverage of the controversy:
- The site: Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that the US is reopening the Texas facility, which can hold up to 700 children ages 13 to 17. The government says part of the reason is because capacity at permanent facilities has been cut in half because of COVID restrictions. Another factor: The Post notes that the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border is on the rise, with 5,700 apprehensions in January, the highest figure for that month in years.
- Backlash: Stephen Miller, a top adviser to Trump in the White House, went on Fox News Wednesday night and blasted Biden, notes the Daily Beast. "He came into office and announced that there's an open door, and that young people who come into this country illegally are going to be resettled instead of returned. He is forcing thousands of young children into the arms of smugglers, into the arms of traffickers, into the arms of coyotes ... That is cruel. That is inhumane."
- More criticism: Conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch tweeted, "Kids in cages is now 'migrant facility for children.'" That sentiment is widespread on the right, and Fox News rounds up more. Loesch and other critics say the Post is treating Biden differently than it did Trump, though the story includes criticism such as this: "When I read they were opening again, I cried," says San Antonio community activist Rosey Abuabara. "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."
- Amnesty International: In a statement, the human rights group took note of the reopening, referring to the site as a "detention facility," and warned that it cannot become the "status quo." However, the group also said the Biden administration "has inherited a system that holds unaccompanied children in temporary facilities and it will take time to move away from the system."
- Differences: In a separate analysis at the Post, Aaron Blake writes that Biden, unlike Trump, isn't separating children from their parents. Also, children detained under the previous administration were held in large groups behind chain-link fences, he adds. "Whether you called those 'cages' or 'chain-link partitions' or anything else, though, that's not the situation at the border facility the Biden administration is reactivating."
- Rationale: A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services tells the Post the agency is moving toward an approach based on child welfare rather than the "law-enforcement-focused" approach of the Trump administration. And Biden press secretary Jen Psaki said the Carrizo Springs facility is only temporary. It "is never our intention of replicating the immigration policies of the past administration," she said, per the Hill. "But we are in a circumstance where we are not going to expel unaccompanied minors at the border. That would be inhumane."
- The problem: A post at Axios sees all this as a "brewing crisis" for Biden, who it says is discovering that "it's easier to talk about preventing warehousing kids at the southern border than solving the problem." While it's true that the Biden administration is no longer separating children from their parents at the border, it's also true that more minors are showing up unaccompanied. Plus, it's only February, and border crossings typically peak in the spring. The report says that more than 700 unaccompanied children from Mexico were in DHS custody as of Sunday.
(Biden just ended Trump's freeze on legal immigration