New photos have emerged of migrants, including women and children, crammed together in detention centers on the US border, which has increased pressure on President Joe Biden’s administration over its policies immigration amid a sudden surge in arrivals to the United States.
Images from Donna’s treatment center in Texas showed people lying on the floor under aluminum emergency blankets and separated into groups by plastic sheeting while waiting for their documents to be assessed.
They were taken away by Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar, who lobbied the Biden administration to deal with the recent influx of migrants and supplied them to the Reuters news agency.
The Biden administration is under pressure to deal with an emerging humanitarian situation on the border with Mexico as thousands flee violence, natural disasters and economic hardship in Central and South America. The Democratic president has promised a more humane immigration policy than his predecessor Donald Trump, sparking an influx at the border as some migrants risk the trip in the hope of a less harsh approach.
As a result, US authorities have struggled to accommodate a growing number of arrivals – and unaccompanied children. Donna’s facility was opened last month to provide them with temporary shelter while a permanent building was under renovation.
There were more than 5,000 unaccompanied children in crowded border facilities on Saturday, according to government data seen by Reuters.
Under a new program run by nonprofits, the administration aims to allow some migrant families to be accommodated in hotels, two people familiar with the plans told Reuters news agency. .
As part of the program, Endeavors, a San Antonio-based organization, will oversee what it calls “family hospitality sites” at hotels in Texas and Arizona, the two sources said.
The organization, in partnership with other nonprofits, will initially provide beds in seven different branded hotels for families deemed vulnerable when picked up at the border.
Tae Johnson, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said the agency signed a short-term, $ 86.9 million contract with Endeavors to provide temporary shelter and treatment services for migrant families. The contract provides for 1,239 beds and other necessary services, he said in a statement.
The opening of the reception centers would mark a significant change in the administration of Biden, a Democrat, away from the detention of migrant families in for-profit facilities.
In January, Biden issued an order directing the Justice Department not to renew its contracts with private criminal detention centers. However, the ordinance did not apply to immigration prisons operated by ICE.
About 1,200 migrants were held in two family detention centers in Texas, according to an ICE spokesperson. A third center in Pennsylvania is no longer used to house families.
Influx of new migrants
The influx of thousands of migrants provided an opening for Biden’s rivals, who struggled to find an angle of attack after successfully stepping up the coronavirus vaccination campaign.
Republicans have accused the new president of creating chaos at the border encouraged by a naive approach to immigration.
“Despite your administration’s refusal to admit that this is a crisis, the American people are beginning to understand the gravity of the situation,” said Republican Senator Ted Cruz, announcing that he would go to the border this week with 14 of his colleagues.
Cruz accused the White House of “hiding the truth” by preventing journalists from visiting border facilities, especially those holding children.
Hotel sites are expected to open in April and will offer COVID-19 testing, medical care, food services, social workers and case managers to help with travel and subsequent destinations, according to the two sources, who asked. anonymity. Staff will be trained to work with children.
Families will arrive at border patrol posts and then be dispatched to hotel sites to continue immigration formalities, the two sources said. They could leave the reception centers as soon as six hours after their arrival if the paperwork is done, they test negative for COVID-19 and transport has been organized.
‘Our border is not open’
Biden officials said migrant families would be “deported” to Mexico or their home country under a Trump-era health order known as Title 42. But more than half of the 19,000 family members captured at the border in February have not been deported, with many released in the United States.
“Our border is not open,” Johnson of the ICE said in the statement.
More needs to be done to address this growing humanitarian crisis.
These migrant children need our help now. Not later. https://t.co/hbeLnfIxNF
– Representative Henry Cuellar (@RepCuellar) March 22, 2021
“The majority of people continue to be evicted under the public health authority of the Centers for Disease Control.”
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Ariel Ruiz of the Migration Policy Institute in the United States, however, said that it would be “unrealistic” to expect all migrants to stop coming.
Ruiz also pointed out that the number of people entering is still below the 2019 level, although the trend is up.
Endeavors will also operate a new 2,000-bed shelter for unaccompanied children in Texas, the sources said.
New facilities for families and children are expected to gradually increase bed capacity, said people familiar with the effort.