President Joe Biden assumed office with the promise of making sweeping changes to the border crisis and about two months into his presidency little has changed. While this is undoubtedly a lengthy process the fact that it seems the situation has only worsened dampens the hope that was kindled at the start of the year. The U.S. government was housing approximately 15,500 unaccompanied migrant minors on March 20, including 5,000 teenagers and children stranded in Border Patrol facilities that aren’t meant for long-term custody, according to government data reviewed by CBS News. Border Patrol has detained more than 11,000 unaccompanied migrant children between February 28 to March 20, according to government data reviewed by CNN. They’ve also apprehended more than 60,000 single adults and more than 32,000 families, according to the data CNN reviewed.
“I have said repeatedly from the very outset that a Border Patrol station is no place for a child,” the Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union”. He said the Biden administration is “working around the clock to move those children out of the Border Patrol facilities into the care and custody of the Department of Health and Human Services that shelters them.”
Exclusive photos from inside a temporary overflow facility in Donna, Texas reveal the crowded, makeshift conditions at the border as the government's longer-term child shelters and family detention centers fill up. https://t.co/VFZdnXlBQ8
— Axios (@axios) March 22, 2021
According to government records, unaccompanied children are spending an average of 136 hours in CBP custody, exceeding the 72-hour limit outlined in U.S. law, CBS reported. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was also housing nearly 10,500 unaccompanied children in emergency housing facilities licensed by states to care for minors, Department Spokesperson Mark Weber told CBS News.
Advocacy organizations including RAICES, the largest immigration legal services non-profit in Texas, tweeted in response to the high number of children still in CBP custody under jail-like conditions. Journalists are not yet allowed by the Biden administration to visit the facilities however Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar provided photos of the dire conditions to Axios.
The images are from a CBP temporary overflow facility in Donna, Texas and Rep. Cuellar told the publication that each of the eight so-called pods has a 260-person occupancy but that there were about 400 unaccompanied male minors in a single pod.
We don't care if we have a Republican or Democratic President. No child should be detained under CBP custody under inhumane conditions.
The Biden administration must immediately transfer children to an HHS facility & reunite them with their families as soon as possible.
— RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) March 22, 2021
“We don’t care if we have a Republican or Democratic President. No child should be detained under CBP custody under inhumane conditions. None. The Biden administration must immediately transfer children to an HHS facility & reunite them with their families as soon as possible.” While the organization Families Belong Together tweeted about the systemic issues around the crisis: “It didn’t have to be this way. This was a result of years and years of intentional, anti-immigrant immigration policies.”
It didn’t have to be this way. This was a result of years and years of intentional, anti-immigrant immigration policies. https://t.co/0H6tFdUuoR
— Families Belong Together (@fams2gether) March 22, 2021
HHS notified Congress on March 20 that it would be opening a new influx facility in Pecos, Texas, that would initially house about 500 unaccompanied children, according to a notice obtained by CBS News. HHS shared that the facility could be expanded to house up to 2,000 minors. The Pecos facility would become the fourth influx or emergency housing facility for unaccompanied minors opened by the Biden administration, according to CBS.