White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Sunday defended the Biden administration’s decision to reopen a controversial migrant facility for children constructed under former President Trump, describing the Texas facility—scrutinized by immigration lawyers and advocates—as the most “humane” option available.
rtwork made by previous residents hangs inside a welcome center at a Influx Care Facility (ICF) for … [+]
Speaking during an appearance on Fox Sunday Morning, Psaki said it was necessary to reopen the Carrizo Springs facility because of the strain of the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced facilities housing migrant children to cut capacity by nearly half.
Though the Carrizo Springs facility has a better track record than other migrant detention facilities, immigration advocates have criticized the emergency shelter because it is not licensed to take care of children, and as a result does not need to comply with the same standards of care.
Psaki said the Biden administration views it as the “most humane” step to keep unaccompanied children under 18 in temporary shelters like Carrizo Springs instead of sending them back on a “treacherous path.”
“This is a difficult choice but that’s one that we felt was the right one, the most humane one,” continued Psaki, saying the Biden administration’s “objective” is to treat the detained children “humanely and to keep them safe.”
The Carrizo Springs facility in Texas was shuttered in July 2019 after just one month amid backlash over poor conditions at the Trump administration’s temporary facilities for unaccompanied children. Theresa Cardinal Brown, a former immigration advisor in both the Bush and Obama administrations, told NPR that the Carrizo Springs facility is not like “kids in cages.” Photos of the facility show kids stay in bunk beds and have access to sporting facilities. A separate facility the Biden administration plans to reopen for extra space—the Homestead Detention Center in Florida—faced numerous allegations of mistreatment of children and sexual abuse before it was shut down in 2019. Biden’s decision to reopen these facilities earlier this month drew bipartisan scrutiny, including from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y), who chided it as representative of a “fraught, unjust immigration system.” Biden has vowed to take a more progressive stance on immigration than his predecessor, and has already started to undo key components of former President Trump’s immigration legacy, like the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. After the backlash, Biden said Friday that his “hope and expectation” is that the facility won’t’ stay open long “and that we’ll be able to provide for every kid who comes across the border safely to be housed in a facility that’s licensed.”
More than 2,000 unaccompanied migrants were intercepted by U.S. border patrol over the past week, according to The New York Times. The number of children crossing the border reached its highest level in recent years in January.
“First migrant facility for children opens under Biden” (The Washington Post)
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