A migrant facility for children is being opened in Texas, in a first for the new Biden administration.
The emergency facility, which was only open for a month in the summer of 2019 during former President Donald Trump’s single term in office, is a former man camp for oil field workers in Carrizo Springs in the southern part of the state, and is set to house as many as 700 teenagers aged 13 to 17.
Emergency facilities have been criticised for their lack of insight, cost, and conditions for those staying there. Some immigration lawyers and advocates have raised doubts about why the Biden administration would allow a facility that proved contentious under Mr Trump to reopen.
Calling the move “a huge step backwards,” immigration lawyer Linda Brandmiller toldThe Washington Post: “It’s unnecessary, it’s costly, and it goes absolutely against everything Biden promised he was going to do.”
The reopening of the camp is necessary, according to government officials, because facilities that hold migrant children have had to decrease their capacity to half of their previous capability due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The number of children crossing the border from Mexico alone has been rising recently. This past January saw the highest number of apprehensions (5,700) compared to the same month in recent years, The Post reported.
Mr Biden has signed several executive orders to end Mr Trump’s harsh policies on immigration and has put forward a plan for a road to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US. Officials say that reversing a Trump policy to now accept children coming alone into the country has also been a factor in the rising number of children in government care.
Temporary shelters are also more than twice as expensive to run compared to permanent shelters. There are currently about 7,000 children in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services. It is at more than 90 per cent of its capacity under pandemic conditions, and the camp at Carrizo Springs is supposed to close again when pandemic restrictions can be lifted.
Ms Brandmiller said that the locations of these shelters in the middle of nowhere is troubling: “This is done deliberately to shelve these children in places that are not only not readily accessible, but not accessible at all to anyone who cares about the quality of life of these kids, and whether or not they comply with the federal law.
“If they were actually addressing the issues that are endemic in a system that has been established for many years and is flawed, if they were addressing the inadequacies instead of creating a parallel jail for kids, I would have more hope.”
The Independent has reached out to the White House for comment.
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