Gee, who could have predicted this outcome from the rapid dismantling of the disincentives against border swarming? The US currently holds 30% more minors in adult detention centers under Joe Biden than at any time during the Trump administration, the Washington Post reported last night. They aren’t the “cages” built and used in both the Trump and Obama administrations, but there’s not much difference to these facilities either, Nick Miroff notes:
The magnitude of the crisis facing President Biden at the U.S.-Mexico border came into clearer focus Wednesday as the new administration was holding record numbers of unaccompanied migrant teens and children in detention cells for far longer than legally allowed and federal health officials fell further behind in their race to find space for them in shelters.
Ahem. This is not a “crisis facing President Biden.” This is a crisis created by President Biden. This wave of migrants attempting to cross illegally, especially the rapid increase of unaccompanied minors, is a direct result of Biden’s campaign statements and policy positions on immigration. Biden promised to liberalize asylum and end the policy of preventing applicants from crossing the border, setting all of the incentives in favor of mass entry again.
And the response to Biden’s new incentives has been predictably impressive:
More than 8,500 migrant teens and children who crossed the border without their parents are being housed in Department of Health and Human Services shelters as they wait to be placed with relatives or vetted sponsors. Nearly 3,500 more are stuck at Border Patrol stations waiting for beds in those shelters to open up, the highest figure ever, according to internal data reviewed by The Washington Post.
Held in grim steel-and-concrete cells built for adults, these young people are spending an average of 107 hours awaiting transfer to an HHS-run shelter, well over the 72-hour legal limit, the data shows. The largest number of unaccompanied minors held this way during the Trump administration was about 2,600 in June 2019, according to congressional testimony and two former Customs and Border Protection officials who were involved in handling that crisis.
The Border Patrol warehouse with chain-link holding pens that were decried as “cages” in 2018 has been closed for renovations, but the conditions in the stations are not much better. Young people are waiting in cramped, austere holding cells with concrete floors and benches. Lights remain on 24 hours a day, agents say, and there are few places to play.
How desperate has the search for more facilities become in this rush over the border? While one arm of the Biden administration drags its heels on pressing schools to reopen and advises states to keep mask mandates and capacity restrictions in the COVID-19 pandemic, HHS is lifting those capacity limits in their detention facilities to free up more beds:
HHS officials have lifted capacity restrictions implemented to lessen the spread of the coronavirus, a move that potentially opens up thousands of additional beds.
So let’s get this straight: we can’t reopen schools at all because of the risk of COVID-19 transmission, but we can ignore those risks to stack up kids to the rafters in these facilities? To live in close proximity 24/7, rather than the social-distanced eight hours max of public schooling? I’d like to see an epidemiologist explain that decision, especially after a week of several from the CDC and elsewhere scolding governors for rolling back some pandemic mandates.
For that matter, what happened to the “kids in cages”-obsessed media? Where are the headlines over the crisis of housing children with unrelated adults in detention facilities? Will we see another photo op from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez weeping at the border over this situation? (Actually, that wouldn’t surprise me.) The Washington Post does a good job of reporting on this situation and pointing out just how much worse it has become in two months of Joe Biden’s presidency, even if they do fall back to the passive voice in doing so. Where are all of the other media outlets that breathlessly reported on Donald Trump’s “kids in cages” policies, especially those who erroneously used kids-in-cages photos that dated back to the Obama administration?
I’d actually trade all of that media accountability for a coherent policy of border security. After all of Biden’s talk about easing restrictions for the last two years, having a White House aide declare “La frontera esta cerrada” at a podium doesn’t cut it. Especially when Biden’s border czar, Roberta Jacobson, can’t even manage to spit it out correctly (via Citizen Free Press and Breitbart):
Biden's border czar, Roberta Jacobson, fixed her comment, made in Spanish, that the border is not closed — after an aide handed her a note as she spoke during White House press briefing. https://t.co/YWY20NkSpR
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) March 10, 2021
Jacobson sounds just as confused as the illegal immigrants. For that matter, so does Biden.