As more immigrants come to the U.S. seeking asylum, the Biden administration is now facing a record number of unaccompanied migrant minors at the border. Agencies claim they are trying to find help for the minors, but is this really the case?
by Sarah Hoffman
Just this past week, we saw a gut-wrenching video of a 10-year-old unaccompanied migrant child in tears asking a farmer for help. As more immigrants come to the U.S. seeking asylum, the Biden administration is now facing a record number of unaccompanied migrant minors at the border. Agencies claim they are trying to find help for the minors, but is this really the case?
Around 5,000 children are being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Both Democrats and Republicans have toured the facilities; U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar gave us a rare glimpse of what the conditions at these facilities look like. And, the Biden administration continues to block press from entering the centers.
These packed detention centers with children sleeping on floors spaces are too small for the number of people within the tight walls of the facility. Not to mention, U.S. President Biden has also kept certain restrictive Trump-era legislation. While the administration claims time and time again that they create a more compassionate immigration reform, their policies and actions prove different.
The Biden administration promised that they would reverse Trump-era immigration policies, however, this process feels incredibly slow. One Trump-era policy called Title 42 has not been reversed yet. This is one of the most restrictive immigration policies ever implemented at the U.S. border. This policy relies on the 1944 public health statute to indefinitely close the border to “non-essential” travel. The administration claims this is necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19 and migrants can still seek asylum in the U.S. according to U.S. law.
The problem with this law is what it can deem as “nonessential,” which allows border patrol agents to have unchecked power over migrants and expel hundreds of thousands of immigrants. When this law was invoked in 2020, over 650,000 encounters with immigrants at the border only permitted fewer than 1% granted protection.
The Biden administration is heavily relying on Title 42 to expel most immigrants crossing the border. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas claims that their approach is a more humane approach than immigration. However, the administration still relying on this policy proves how inhumane their practices are. According to LA Times, only 2% made it to the initial step of claiming fear of being sent back to their home country. Only 120 individuals have received and passed screenings that give them a chance at winning asylum. Currently, news of 9,500 unaccompanied minors in U.S. border jails that are departing around 16,000 children to migrate alone and nearly 34,000 families is generating little media attention.
Even CDC officials state this policy does little to prevent the spread of the virus despite the claims from the Biden administration that the CDC has the authority to lift the order. While former Vice President Mike Pence practically forced this legislation to be enacted by the CDC, no one is holding a gun to their mouth to continue this policy. If this is the case, then the Biden administration can put this same pressure on the CDC to expel this harmful policy.
This is where things become even more complicated. Journalists have not yet been allowed inside the detention centers since President Biden took office. However, lawyers representing the children say the conditions are cramped and overcrowded. Children are seen huddled together and sleeping on mattresses on the floor in foil blankets. Furthermore, they are not given proper access to soap or food. While children are not necessarily being kept in cages, they are enclosed in cramped pods.
While Biden is making it his mission to not turn away minors at the border unlike Trump, these children do deserve better living circumstances. They are human beings who deserve dignity and respect the moment they step onto U.S. soil. This is if Biden really wants to show the difference between how his administration treats migrants versus how Trump’s administration did.
Perhaps the reason Biden is barring journalists from these migrant facilities as Representative Laura Sanchez pointed out, is because it is “not appropriate for reporters to see inside border facilities for children. The children are not placed there paramountly. They’re processed out of those facilities as quickly as possible.” While it is understandable the administration does not want massive media outlets to promote a false narrative, the public deserves to know what is going on. These children deserve to be treated better, and frankly, these facilities do not represent that. This lack of transparency is supposed to respect the privacy of the migrant children. However, the public has a right to know what these conditions are like especially if minors need extra assistance from human rights groups.
Additionally, media outlets should not continue to promote trauma porn for the sake of a story. However, banning journalists from informing the public on the horrible conditions these children are in provides a lack of trust between the American citizens and the Biden administration. President Biden has rolled back on many Trump-era anti-immigration policies that may make conditions slightly better for immigrants, but he must do more. Migrants should be granted asylum without any restrictive policies and should not have to stay in an inhospitable detention center.