The Biden administration finally allowed journalists inside its primary border detention facility for migrant children.
In recent weeks, thousands of children and families have arrived at the U.S-Mexico border. President Joe Biden has been asked to be more transparent about the process followed by him to help these migrating people. The U.S Customs and Border Protection finally allowed two journalists from The Associated Press and a small crew from CBS inside the facility of Donna, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas which is the most frequented corridor for illegal crossings.
At their arrival, they saw over 4,100 people inside this Texas facility, all living in a space intended for not more than 250 people. There were a few families but most of these were unaccompanied children who are first processed in the tents inside the facility. Next, they are taken to another facility run by the Department of Health and Human Services from where they are placed with family members or relatives if they could be found inside the U.S. If not, they’re places with a U.S sponsor who will look after them till the family arrives.
There are eight ‘pods’ in the facility which are made of plastic dividers where hundreds of children are living in. Some of these pods house over 500 children at one time. The youngest of them are not kept in these crowded pods. For example, a 3-year old accompanied by her 11-year old brother and a newborn with a 17-year old mother are kept in playpens which are layered with mats. The acting executive officer of the U.S border patrol in the Rio Grande Valley notified that over 300 kids enter this facility every day but very few of them leave.
The journalists present there watched the detailed procedure of the new children being processed. They are first taken into a small room for health care check and lice inspection. They were hosed down and the towels used were thrown in a ‘lice’ labeled garbage bin. Most of these kids have had to travel for a very long time, often on foot, to get to the border. Hence, they are checked for numerous different ailments like scabies and fever. Covid tests are performed only if the child shows symptoms. They are also given a psychological test by nurse practitioners questioning the children for suicidal thoughts. For safety, everyone’s shoelaces are removed.
From here, they are taken to a large intake room where people over 14 years of age are fingerprinted and have their photos taken for documentation and record. They are then taken to another intake room where they are given notices to appear for immigration court. The children are asked by agents of the Border Patrol if they know anyone from the U.S and if they could contact them. They are allowed to call that person from the facility.
The Biden Administration has continued to not allow families to enter the U.S under the public health declaration related to coronavirus enacted by the former president. The recent changes in Mexican Law have however forced the government to allow the entry of a lot of parents and children into the U.S which they previously tried to stop.
President Biden has refused to expel unaccompanied children trying to enter the U.S who are trying to escape poverty, violence, and natural disasters and their effects, all prevalent in Central America. So if parents are refused entry, they’re sending their kids inside hoping they would be placed under a relative and can soon be reunited with them.
There is a severe backlog in the system as far more children are entering daily. The Health and Human Services are failing to place this many children under U.S sponsorship or care. The children should not be detained for over 3 days by the border patrol but more than 2,000 kids have been in the Donna facility for more than 3 days including the 39 children who’ve been here more than two weeks.
The children are being housed at convention centers in San Diego and Dallas by the HHS and are trying to open large facilities in a few places including El Paso and San Antonio.