On Monday the Department of Health and Human Services reopened a facility in Texas to house up to 700 migrants ages 13 to 17. A second facility in Florida also is being reopened. The decision has stirred up controversy and drawn much criticism from immigration advocates who are accusing the Biden administration of hypocrisy given the previous Biden-Harris condemnations of such facilities. White House press secretary Jen Psaki was pressed about the issue at her briefing Tuesday and tried to insist that it was a temporary measure for unaccompanied minors that is necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The White house explanation was the centers reopening was to ensure the health and safety of the kids to add capacity where they can be provided the care they need before they are safely placed with families and sponsors. The centers will ensure the kids are not in close proximity and that they are abiding by the health and safety standards that the government has been set out. The goal is for them to then be transferred to families or sponsors.
The reopening of the facility comes amid an increase in apprehensions of unaccompanied children on the Southwest border, fueled in part by deteriorating conditions in Latin America and a perceived possible relaxation of enforcement, and reduced capacity limits at other facilities due to Covid-19. It also comes as President Joe Biden rolls out new immigration executive orders tackling migration to the US southern border. Unaccompanied children who cross the border are taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security and referred to HHS, though a Trump-era policy also makes them subject to expulsion. If placed in care, case managers work to place a child with a sponsor in the United States, like a parent or relative. The facility in Carrizo Springs will be used for children who are medically cleared from Covid-19 quarantine and will not be used for those younger than 13, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency within HHS that is responsible for the care of migrant children. As of Thursday, there were approximately 4,730 children in Office of Refugee Resettlement care.
Hopefully, these facilities will indeed only be open for a temporary period of time.