Out in my former neck of the mesquite, in Carrizo Springs, TX actually, an oil field worker tent and portable building camp that Trump opened for a month as a jail for unaccompanied minors has been reopened up again by the Biden Administration.
Blaming COVID-19, Biden mouthpiece Jen Psaki pointed to a lack of room at the usual Health and Human Services facilities because of COVID-19 protocols that called for increased distancing as the reason to reopen the Carrizo Springs, TX facility located in the middle of nowhere.
700 teenagers will now reside at this reopened facility while they await placement with families or sponsors. Current rules call for the Border Patrol to hold these children for up to 72 hours before transferring them to an HHS facility. The 700 kids were currently being held in a border patrol tent prison because the original facility which became infamous for using cages for the kids is being renovated. Into what? I have no idea.
Also, current HHS facilities have more of a group home atmosphere.
No doubt, immigrant rights activists and attorneys are worried about how the children will be treated at this facility. Psaki and Biden can use whatever cleaner description of these facilities they can create, the bottom line is that children should not be kept in prison-like facilities in the middle of nowhere, whether in cages or not.
Of course, the optics are terrible. Biden made promises to not be like Trump at all when it comes to immigration. While we know immigration policy and process takes time to be put in place (although Trump did wonders with executive orders), detention and practices can be changed immediately. When in need of a solution, Biden basically ran back to a Trump-era idea. Some call that a lack of creativity on Biden’s part.
One other thing, the Carrizo Springs kiddie jail can be expanded to house thousands. Given the lack of creativity, the potential for this place to grow should scare us.
Yet, I’m not surprised. And I’m definitely not surprised at the haunting silence of Democrats in Congress or on the ground Dem activists who don’t seem to see a problem with this. We must demand more from Biden when it comes to migrant warehousing and detention–especially ending the private contracting of it. And while Biden has attempted some short strides in trying to curb deportations (which has been denied by a federal judge) and putting forth some sort of immigration package for Congress to consider, more must be done.
Ultimately, beyond a human rights issue, this is also a political fight. How hard a President and a Congress fights for an issue also makes for great optics. We have a Democratic majority put together by dollar store scotch tape (i.e., Manchin and Sinema), but a majority nonetheless. Use it!
UPDATE 3PM: Biden will reopen Homestead child prison, too.
Latino Rebels reports that the Biden administration will also reopen the Homestead child prison facility in Florida. During the Trump administration, the corporation running this prison was given a $300 billion no-bid contract with the help of former Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly before it was finally shut down. During the 2020 Democratic primary, various candidates toured the facility and lobbied for its closing after charges of child abuse and horrible conditions. Today, it will be run under a different name–as if that changes anything.