US Customs and Border Protection has been shamed into releasing its own photos from inside crowded migrant facilities after a Texas Democrat leapfrogged the agency and shared images of the ‘terrible conditions for children’ at the border.
The agency finally released photos Tuesday where children are seen packed inside pens and being forced to sleep on the floor in foil blankets as it claimed it wants to ‘balance the need for public transparency and accountability’ – while still telling ‘external visitors’ not to come to the facilities to see the conditions for themselves.
The CBP has repeatedly used COVID-19 precautions as an excuse to deny the media all access to its detention centers and the White House has kept the public in the dark for weeks, toying with the idea that they would share photos with the press, before changing their mind days later.
Biden administration officials continue to push the official line that there is ‘no crisis’ while keeping a tight lid on what is going on inside the facilities.
Official data shows hundreds of unaccompanied children have been held in CBP detention centers designed for adults for triple the duration legally allowed under US law as thousands upon thousands of migrants have crossed the border from Mexico into the US in recent weeks.
Around 5,000 unaccompanied minors were held this weekend in CBP detention centers designed for adults as the influx of migrants has meant there is no space to move them to shelters ran by the Department of Health and Human Services’s refugee agency.
A leaked memo sent Monday revealed the agency is now directing the shelters to fast-track the release of children to parents or guardians in the US to free up beds to take more children from the CBP detention centers.
One image shows children lying packed in like sardines side by side on mattresses on the floors inside a makeshift facility in Donna
Another image is taken from the outside of a transparent tent looking in on the dozens of people packed inside
Migrant children stand in line inside a temporary processing facility in Donna, Texas, to get access to essentials while other children held in cage-like tents look on and wait their turn
A children’s play area is seen inside the temporary processing facility in Donna. The play area has a handful of toys and appears to be in a storage room or waiting area
Now, a collection of images has finally been released by the CBP to give a glimpse into what life is like inside the temporary processing facility in Donna, Texas, and the Central Processing Center in El Paso, Texas.
They show children lying packed in like sardines side by side on mattresses on the floors inside a transparent tent facility in the Donna center. The children are wrapped in foil blankets for warmth and are wearing face masks, but there is clearly no room for social distancing in the small confined space.
Migrant children are also seen standing in line to get access to essential items while other children held in cage-like tents look on and wait their turn.
Numbered transparent tent-like pens are seen set up on both sides of a room each packed with migrants who are awaiting processing to enter America.
An image taken from the outside of one of the tent looks in on the dozens of people packed inside with pieces of foil blankets scattered around.
There is a children’s play area set up in what appears to be a storage room or waiting area, with a handful of toys for younger kids.
The CBP said it was sharing the images in an effort to ‘balance the need for public transparency and accountability’ in the wake of a backlash.
‘CBP continues to transfer unaccompanied minors to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as quickly and efficiently as possible after they are apprehended on the Southwest Border,’ it said in a statement Tuesday.
Migrants stand in line inside a temporary processing facility in Donna as the CBP said it was sharing the images in an effort to ‘balance the need for public transparency and accountability’
A migrant is embraced by a child inside the Donna facility. The CBP finally released photos Tuesday after denying media requests for access
CBP personnel at work inside the Donna facility. Photos released Tuesday give a glimpse of what life is like inside the temporary processing facility in Donna, Texas, and the Central Processing Center in El Paso, Texas
HHS’s refugee agency directs shelters to fast-track release of migrant children into the US
The Department of Health and Human Services’s refugee agency has directed its shelters to fast-track the release of migrant children to parents or guardians in the US in order to free up beds to take more children from the CBP detention centers, according to a leaked memo.
An internal email from the Office of Refugee Resettlement Monday, obtained by CBS, issued new guidance shelters to expedite the release of ‘category 1’ minors – children with parents or legal guardians in the US willing to house them.
The guidance cited exceptions to the rule including where the children are ‘especially vulnerable’; if their cases require a legally-mandated home study; or if there are red flags about their parents or legal guardians.
Children must legally be transferred from CBP detention centers to the HHS shelters within 72 hours of their arrival.
But due to the influx in migrants, there are too few beds to take in all the children and a backlog in the arrivals being processed.
As of Saturday 2,226 children had been held in custody for more than five days and 823 for more than 10 days.
‘In order to protect the health and safety of our workforce and those in our care we continue to discourage external visitors in our facilities; however, CBP is working to balance the need for public transparency and accountability.’
This comes one day after Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar shared images from inside the Donna facility taken over the weekend as he said 400 unaccompanied male minors are being held in ‘terrible conditions’ in a space meant to hold a maximum of 260 people.
Cuellar said he did not take the images but said they offer an insight into the ‘terrible conditions for the children’ at the border, where he has recently toured a different shelter for children.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday Cuellar’s images proved what the Biden administration has said all along – that the border facilities are no place for children.
‘These photos show what we’ve long been saying, which is that these border patrol facilities are not places made for children,’ she said in her press briefing on Monday.
‘They are not places that we want children to be staying for an extended period of time. Our alternative is to send children back on this treacherous journey that is not, in our view, the right choice to make.’
Still refusing to call the situation at the US southern border a crisis, Psaki added: ‘Children, presenting at our border, who are fleeing violence, who are fleeing prosecution, who are fleeing terrible situations is not a crisis.
‘We feel that it is our responsibility to humanely approach this circumstance, and make sure they are treated and put in conditions that are safe.’
Psaki also said Monday she didn’t know when media would be given access to the border facilities despite repeated requests by reporters to be allowed to visit.
The Biden administration has so far banned media access to the facilities amid a growing humanitarian and political crisis at the US southern border. Lawyers and lawmakers have been given tours.
‘Biden wanted this to happen’: Tucker Carlson blasts president for border chaos
Tucker Carlson has blasted Joe Biden over the chaos at the border saying that the president ‘wanted this to happen’ because of previous comments he made.
Carlson said on Fox News Monday, he hit out at the president for telling refugees during the 2020 campaign that ‘you should come’.
‘The people streaming across the border want better lives for their families, and no one can hate them for that, least of all us,’ Carlson said.
‘The people to blame are the reckless ideologues who caused this disaster. Joe Biden tops that list. Biden wanted this to happen. He said so out loud at a Democratic debate.’
Carlson played a clip from the September 2019 Democratic debate in which Biden was asked why Latino voters should trust him after deportations had taken place during the Obama-Biden years.
Biden said: ‘I would in fact make sure that… we immediately surge to the border all those people who are seeking asylum.
‘They deserve to be heard, that’s who we are. We’re a nation that says, if you want to flee and you’re fleeing oppression, you should come’.
‘We are working to finalize details and I hope to have an update in the coming days,’ Psaki said after admitting ‘putting in place more effective and efficient processing at the border… is going to take some time’.
Psaki had previously said there would be organized trips for press to gain access to detention facilities but later walked back on those comments, instead promising photos to show conditions.
Then last Thursday, Psaki said the White House would not be releasing to the media photos that advisors shared with President Biden to brief him on conditions on facilities housing childhood migrants on the border.
On Monday, Republicans Senator Ted Cruz wrote to Biden after access was refused to both the press and fourteen other senators who visited the border.
‘The American people are beginning to understand the gravity of the situation,’ Cruz wrote.
‘But it is not enough for members of the Senate to see what is happening — the American people must see. That is why I requested that members of the media be allowed to join us. But your administration clearly and emphatically refused to offer press access.’
‘This is outrageous and hypocritical,’ said Cruz who accused Psaki of reneging on the administration’s vow of ‘transparency’.
‘Denying the press the ability to observe, film, and report on the conditions at the border is not openness or transparency — it is hiding the truth from the American people,’ added Cruz. ‘The press and the American people deserve more than denials and excuses from a podium.’
Psaki said Monday that children at the facilities have been tested for COVID-19 and those who needed to be quarantined were separated out from the rest of the population.
She didn’t have a timeline on when the president might go the border after Biden said on Sunday he would make a trip at some point.
A total of 823 unaccompanied children were held at US-Mexico border facilities for more than 10 days – more than a fourfold increase over the last week, according to an internal Department of Homeland Security document leaked to Axios Sunday.
Congressman Henry Cuellar released the images; he confirmed they were taken over this weekend
The pictures show inside the U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporary overflow facility in Donna
Rep. Cuellar said they offer an insight into the ‘terrible conditions for the children’ at the border
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had said there would be organized trips for press to gain access to detention facilities; later, she walked back on those comments and refused to share images from the facilities
Cuellar said that as of Sunday 400 unaccompanied male minors were being kept in a tent meant to hold 260
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the disturbing images of the cramped conditions inside a migrant ‘overflow’ tent in Texas showed what the Biden administration has said all along – the border facilities are not the place for children
Children are not supposed to be held in border patrol custody for more than three days. As of Saturday 2,226 children had been held in custody for more than five days and 823 for more than 10 days.
The number of unaccompanied migrant kids in US custody surpassed 15,000 as of Saturday as the Biden administration announced that they ‘would not expel young, vulnerable children.’
This is a reverse of Trump administration policy, which was to generally expel all people who tried to illegally cross the border, regardless of age.
Since Biden’s inauguration on January 20, the US has seen a dramatic spike in the number of people encountered by border officials.
There were 18,945 family members and 9,297 unaccompanied children encountered in February – an increase of 168 per cent and 63 per cent, respectively, from the month before, according to the Pew Research Center.
Backlash after Kamala Harris LAUGHS and says ‘not today’ when reporter asks if she will visit border – just hours after photos revealed hellhole conditions at Biden’s migrant camps
Kamala Harris was asked if she had plans to visit the US-Mexico border on Monday but appeared to laugh at the question when posed by a reporter.
‘Do you have any plans to visit the border?’ came the question while on the tarmac in Jacksonville, Florida.
‘Not today,’ responded Harris, before laughing. ‘But I have before, and I’m sure I will again.’
Vice President Kamala Harris started laughing when asked if she would be visiting the border amid the surge in illegal immigrants entering the country
‘Not today!’ Harris said at Jacksonville Airport, before cracking up in response to the reporter’s question. ‘But I have before and I’m sure I will again.’
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to reporters prior to holding a ‘Help is Here’ tour event to tout the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act legislation
The Vice President’s response led to sharp criticism online.
‘Hey Kalama: You better get down there’, wrote one Twitter user.
‘She laughs off a lot of questions because she’s incompetent’ said one user.
‘Translation, ‘NO’. She wasn’t asking about your vacation plans @KamalaHarris there is a crisis you are ignoring, not a joke, not funny, and people deserve real answers….’ I’m sure I will again…’, stated another furious contributor.
President Biden also said on Sunday that he will be making the trip ‘at some point’ despite previously saying he had no plans to visit.
Harris was in Florida as she promoted the passage of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
The Biden administration has come under criticism for the way it has responded to its response to the crisis, although it has refused to use that word.
‘Children presenting at our border who are fleeing violence, who are fleeing prosecution, who are fleeing terrible situations is not a crisis,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. ‘We feel it is our responsibility to humanely approach this circumstance and make sure they are treated, and put into conditions that are safe.’
A number of Twitter users were not impressed with the Vice President’s response
Kamala Harris was asked if she had plans to visit the US-Mexico border on Monday but appeared to laugh at the question when posed by a reporter.
Vice President Harris visited a COVID-19 vaccination clinic and held a roundtable discussion at a food bank