NPR: Migrant kids are being kept in 'crude facilities' because the system is overwhelmed

We all remember how the media reacted to images of migrant children in cages (some called them kennels) during the Trump administration. One of the reporters leading the charge on that was NBC’s Jacob Soboroff.

Here he is the next day in 2018 telling MSNBC “I’ll tell you right now, there are cages, I saw them with my own eyes and they look like dog kennels.” He added, “There’s no other way to describe them.”

NPR published a report yesterday headlined “Children Spend Days In Crude Facilities As U.S. Border Resources Overwhelmed Again.” What are those “crude facilities” exactly? [emphasis added]

A record number of migrant children and teenagers are being held in warehouse-like detention facilities run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection near the southern border, and new documents obtained by NPR show that the number of children arriving without their parents is growing exponentially faster than the Biden administration is able to transfer the children to family members and vetted sponsors…

The Biden administration has 72 hours to transfer those kids to more appropriate facilities, but the overwhelming numbers showing up at the border mean the Border Patrol can’t transfer kids out as fast as they are coming in. The Biden administration has already reopened a shelter in Carrizo Springs, Texas but observers say the nearly 1,000 beds there will be filled up in a matter of days. And as NPR reports that means kids will be stuck even longer in the kind of holding facilities that were dubbed cages and kennels in previous years. [emphasis added]

Last month, the Biden administration reopened the nation’s only emergency influx shelter in Carrizo Springs, Texas, for teenagers who arrived at the border without their parents. A nonprofit source familiar with child migrants says the 952 beds in that shelter are going to fill up in a matter of days.

Without additional shelter space in the government network, immigrant minors will be forced to spend more time in the crude Border Patrol holding cells that were built for adults. Detainees sleep on the floor under thin, silvery blankets, receive rudimentary meals and complain it’s so cold in the cells that they’re nicknamed hieleras, or freezers. These are the same holding cells that were branded as “kennels” during a surge of Central American families in the Trump years.

Here’s how the Washington Post described the conditions:

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.

There is a wrinkle to this story. The location where these kids are being kept is not the same facility that prompted the “kids in cages” complaints two years ago:

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.

Sure enough, the Trump administration did close the center in McAllen last year for renovations to get rid of the chain link fencing and make it more humane. That work will not be completed until 2022. So it’s fair to say that kids are not being left in the exact same facility that prompted the ‘kids in cages’ claims in 2018 because. That’s a stroke of luck on Biden’s part. Nevertheless, kids are being held in temporary holding facilities that aren’t much better. Maybe we’ll eventually get some photos of those facilities but, according to NPR and the Post, the conditions are very similar to the ones that outraged so many Democrats two years ago.

The AP tried to offer excuses for why the current situation doesn’t amount to “kids in cages” but their story doesn’t make much sense. The Post also called the kids in cages talk “a distraction.

The whole fight over what to call this was always political. It was popularized online by people who didn’t know some of the photos they were sharing were from the Obama administration. It was embraced by the media because Trump. And some, like AOC, went above and beyond and called these facilities “concentration camps.”

Now here we are a couple years later. The kids arriving at the border are basically being held in the same conditions they were back then but suddenly that’s a distraction and AOC isn’t using the concentration camp phrase anymore (though she did say, rather tepidly, it was wrong). The truth is nothing is really different now than it was back then except for the reaction of Democrats and the media.

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