Joe Biden received some advice Wednesday after a Texas Congressman toured a Carrizo Springs facility with a delegation of White House officials and lawmakers. The detention center for unaccompanied minors is run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as an overflow facility to ease the crowded border with Mexico. Rep. Filemon Vela is now urging the White House to adopt a policy of turning away “older teenagers” from the border. Vela represents Brownsville, Texas.
Rep. Vela’s words are notable because he is such a loyal Democrat and an early supporter of Joe Biden. He announced this week that he is retiring, though, so he probably is feeling free to speak truth to power. He joins another Texas Democrat who represents a Texas border district, Rep. Henry Cuellar, in sounding an alarm over the border crisis. Cuellar boldly stepped up to speak about the growing crisis and his office provided the first pictures from inside a holding facility. The photos showed that the current crisis sure looks a whole lot like the crisis past presidents Obama and Trump faced, including charges of kids in cages. The Obama-Biden administration built those cages, after all.
Joe Biden’s determination to undo policies at the southern border that were working during the Trump administration in order to show that he is nothing like the bad Orange Man is coming back to bite him. Biden and his administration continue to deny the horrors of the situation at the border while gaslighting the American public with claims that everything is under control. Vela says that if Biden sends teens back across the border when they are detained on this side, it will send a message of discouragement to others making the trip. Vela says it can be a temporary move until the crisis eases. Vela doesn’t offer guidance on what he means by “older” teens. Does he mean 15 years and up or does he mean 17 and 18-year-olds? We know the number of unaccompanied minors is growing thanks to Biden’s mixed messaging and executive actions he signed into effect during his first day in the White House. A majority of them are teenage boys.
Vela and his colleague Cuellar agree that the Biden administration needs to at least have this conversation. A story by Axios quotes Vela expressing concern about the border crisis as he points to the pandemic and border personnel and facilities overwhelmed by the number of illegal migrants.
“There is no perfect fix here,” said Vela, who announced his retirement on Tuesday. “However, we are in the middle of a pandemic, and our systems are being overwhelmed.
“One logical approach to this situation would be to return the older teenagers to their home country, and provide funding for an effort supervised by the United Nations to properly care for those teenagers upon their return.”
Rep. Henry Cuellar, another Texas Democrat with a border district, told Axios it’s something the administration at least “needs to have a conversation among themselves about,” especially given the high percentage of kids crossing the border who are 16 and 17 years old.
The Trump administration used Title 42 to send back unaccompanied minors when they illegally crossed the border. Biden, allegedly thinking of reinstating it, can easily do the same. Title 42 specifies that denial of illegal migrants is allowable during a public health crisis, which is applicable during the coronavirus pandemic. It would ease overcrowding and also help to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The document obtained by BuzzFeed News, which was created by Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, considers different scenarios and policy ideas for dealing with the increased number of unaccompanied children at the border. One of the options, described as a “possible policy,” would be to “negotiate limited application of Title 42 to 17 year old UAC (or 16 and 17 year old) UAC.”
The scenario projects that if the Title 42 policy were used against 17-year-olds, it would drop the referrals to HHS shelters by 35%; if it were also applied to 16-year-olds, it would bring the referrals down 59%. The document describes how 35% of the unaccompanied children detained in February, overwhelmingly from Central American countries, were 17 years old; 24% were 16.
A copy of an internal HHS document was leaked to Axios this week that points out “that 823 unaccompanied migrant children have been held in border patrol custody for over 10 days — more than a fourfold increase over the past week.” The numbers continue to accelerate and there is no end in sight. The Biden administration simply does not have control of the situation.
Will the words from Rep. Vela make a difference to anyone responsible for managing the southern border in the Biden administration? Likely, the words will fall on deaf ears. Biden is stubbornly clinging to failing policy decisions, which, if you take a look at his long career in politics, follows his historically incorrect pattern of decision-making. Biden will find other supporters to counter truth-tellers like Vela and Cuellar. One Democrat who toured the border Wednesday is content to have the administration just continue to put up more shelters and let the crisis play out.
Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.), who was on the tour, told Axios: “The answer is exactly what they are trying to do right now, and that is to build up capacity in the region, with safe houses, shelters where these young people can present themselves.”
The border is far from under control, no matter how many times a Biden administration official says otherwise. The crisis will continue to grow until enough Democrats come forward and demand that Biden acts responsibly to stop it.