In just three months, US President Joe Biden, who campaigned on what he called predecessor Donald Trump’s ‘cruel’ policies on migrant children, has seen an unprecedented number of unaccompanied minors enter the country.
Some 19,000 unaccompanied minors are being held by Customs and Border Patrol over the course of March, the largest number ever to be apprehended in a single month. The CBP fears the numbers will continue to climb, and are expecting a whopping 26,000 new arrivals daily by September, according to documents leaked to Axios.
The number of minor children crossing the border is dwarfed by the total number of attempted new arrivals, however. CBP estimated that in March alone, some 172,000 people were apprehended trying to cross over from Mexico, and that this itself was a huge increase – up 71% from last month’s total. Gridlock in the asylum system has led to detainees who, by law, can stay no more than 72 hours, staying instead for days at a time – some as long as 15 days – as the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Administration try to decide where to put them.
Despite Biden having spent a good part of the last five years imploring Trump to fix conditions, several high-visibility Democratic figures like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have dramatized as “concentration-camp-like” conditions the children were being kept in – and have since done an about-face. But the new administration has seemingly opted to hide its shame instead of admitting its shortcomings.
Biden has ventured so far into Trump country – on this issue, at least – that he even reportedly suggested rebuilding parts of the ex-president’s border wall – a major source of conflict between the two parties. Meanwhile, his supporters among the Democrats have refused to discuss the “kids in cages” meme that had them distressed for almost exactly four years.
On the ground, Biden staff have done what they can to refuse journalists admission, haranguing those few who do make it in to see the facilities, and insisting that such a massive surge in immigration – one that apparently needs nine new emergency camps to hold all the central American migrants – is a normal yearly event .
Just because a migrant child makes it over the border doesn’t necessarily mean their troubles are over, either. Texas Governor Abbott complained to Biden about several detention facilities in San Antonio earlier last month, noting one was facing serious allegations of child abuse, another was mixing Covid-19 positive patients with healthy young people, knowing that not only was it overcrowded, but the conditions had given rise to Covid-19 outbreaks elsewhere. Abbott deemed the camp conditions “unacceptable and inhumane,” the same label Biden gave it when it was being run by Trump.
However, letting an unaccountable minor into the US seems to come with a healthy windfall that just might make all those headaches worthwhile. According to the Washington Post, the Biden administration spends about $60 million per week to shelter migrant children. Emergency shelter after shelter filled up with kids once the Department of Health and Human Services building filled up, and overflow children are being housed at convention centers, sports domes, church shelters, and other properties.