Texas governor blasts Biden administration for ‘humanitarian crisis’ at border detention facilities for children

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TEXAS — The governor of the Lone Star State has criticized the Biden administration for allowing wretched and unsafe conditions at multiple detention facilities for unaccompanied migrant children.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said conditions at multiple Health and Human Services (HHS) detention facilities, which were hastily opened to accommodate increasing numbers of unaccompanied migrant children, are “unacceptable and inhumane.”

In a March 19 press release, Abbott cited concerns of unsafe drinking water and COVID-19 outbreaks at different facilities:

“The water at the federally run unaccompanied minor facility in Midland was not proven safe prior to placing children in the facility. In addition, there has been a COVID-19 outbreak in the Carrizo Springs facility.

“The Biden Administration has been an abject failure when it comes to ensuring the safety of unaccompanied minors who cross our border. The conditions unaccompanied minors face in these federally run facilities is unacceptable and inhumane.

“From a lack of safe drinking water in one location to a COVID-19 outbreak in another, the Biden Administration has no excuse for subjecting these children to these kinds of conditions.

“President Biden’s refusal to address the border crisis is not only enabling criminal actors like human traffickers and smugglers, but it is exposing innocent unaccompanied children to illness and potentially unsafe living conditions.

“The administration must act now to keep these children safe, secure our border, and end this humanitarian crisis.”

In the press release, the governor also announced the deployment of Texas Department of State Health Services resources and personnel to the federally run facility in Carrizo Springs to “investigate, identify, and combat” an additional COVID-19 outbreak.

In an interview with FOX News, Gov. Abbott said the Midland center has “no proven clean running water” and “more than 10 percent of migrants” at both the Midland and Carrizo Springs facilities “have tested positive for COVID-19.”

The facility in Midland, Texas, is located at a former oilfield mancamp and had a massive COVID outbreak, with nearly 11 percent of the minors testing positive, Breitbart Texas reported. The outbreak was nearly double the statewide average of 6.5 percent throughout Texas.

HHS spokesman Mark Weber told the Associated Press the Biden administration put their plans to move more unaccompanied migrant teenagers to the Midland facility on pause after discovering that 53 of the 485 migrant minors tested positive for COVID-19 after being secretly moved by buses to Midland under the cover of darkness.

With the recent surge in unaccompanied minors since Biden became president, there have been growing concerns that his administration appears overwhelmed and unprepared to handle the crisis at the border.

After sneaking migrant minors into the Midland facility and trying to handle the growing influx of thousands of unaccompanied children, HHS officials had to work with FEMA to open an additional shelter.

A temporary facility was created at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas to place thousands of minors in what was called a “decompression shelter.”

Breitbart Texas asked former HHS Chief of Staff Brian Harrison what a “decompression shelter” was.

Harrison responded:

“Who knows? Never heard that. I was the chief of staff of the agency that oversaw these things. I’ve never heard that term in my life. I have no idea.”

“I think it’s just, I think it’s just the, you know, the Democrats in the media colluding to change the name so the American people won’t know the full extent of the devastation and the crisis that they’re creating on the border.”

Despite a pledge for transparency from the Biden administration, media and lawyers representing migrant children have been banned from visiting migrant detention centers. Reporters are not allowed inside the Carrizo Springs facility for minors due to the COVID outbreak.

An unnamed spokesperson for the Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families (ACF) allegedly told the Daily Caller News Foundation:

“The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is not hosting media tours of unaccompanied children (UC) facilities currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If media tours resume, we will send a media advisory.”

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had said he would look into why an ABC News reporter was told media would not be allowed to tour migrant facilities in Texas due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

CBS reported on prison-like conditions for children being held at detention facilities include minors reportedly taking turns to sleep on the floor because of overcrowding; not being allowed to call family; showering once a week; and going days without seeing sunlight.

Neha Desai, a lawyer representing migrant youth in U.S. government custody, said:

“It is deeply concerning to see young children in facilities for days on end, unable to take a shower, call their families or see the sunlight.”

Lawyers conducting oversight of the detention centers told Associated Press that they interviewed children who said they are kept so closely together and can touch the child next to them despite COVID concerns.

Biden’s administration has now denied the lawyers access to a tent facility in Donna, Texas. Leecia Welch, a lawyer with the National Center for Youth Law, told Associated Press:

“It is pretty surprising that the administration talks about the importance of transparency and then won’t let the attorneys for children set eyes on where they’re staying. I find that very disappointing.”

Lawyers were not able to go inside the tent to inspect the reportedly harsh conditions for themselves, so Welch confirmed that they are piecing information together based on their interviews with the children.

The Associated Press also reported interviewing the mother of one 4-year-old girl from Guatemala who crossed the border March 5 with her aunt. Border authorities expelled the aunt and labeled the girl unaccompanied by a parent, placing her in the Donna tent. 

The girl’s parents live in Maryland, and the mother said she didn’t know her daughter’s whereabouts until Sunday and didn’t speak to her until Monday.

According to the mother, the girl was unable to speak in a nearly 20-minute phone call:

“She cried as if something was going on, as if she was scared. I started crying when I heard her that way. It didn’t seem right to me.”

The next day, the mother tried to speak to her daughter again. The seemingly traumatized girl was no longer crying, but still unable to speak. The mother said:

“She didn’t say anything. I tried everything I could, but nothing.”

Sources in the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector indicated they are still apprehending between 400 and 500 unaccompanied children each day, according to a report by Breitbart.

In addition, agents are holding, according to the source, over 2,100 unaccompanied children in Border Patrol facilities and cannot keep up with the backlog in processing and transfer to HHS.

HHS is responsible for providing detention space for the children under current law.

Harrison told Breitbart Texas that Biden shoulders the responsibility of the humanitarian crisis on the southern border:

“We actually had COVID protocols in place, you know, in these UAC [unaccompanied migrant children] shelters. They have undone the COVID protocols. You know, the same people who say schools can’t be open, the economy can’t be open, lockdowns forever, are undoing the COVID protocols in the shelters.”

Most Border Patrol facilities aren’t equipped for long-term detention, and children are forced to sleep on mats in cells where the lights stay on around the clock.

Last month, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced during a press briefing that the Biden administration ended the COVID capacity restrictions in facilities housing unaccompanied minors to ease overcrowding:

“We had to expand and open additional facilities because there was not enough space in the existing facilities if we were to abide by COVID protocols.”

Why wasn’t there enough space?

Harrison said the capacity issue came about as a direct result of Biden eliminating successful programs put in place during the Trump administration:

“We didn’t have a capacity problem. When Joe Biden took office, we had a lot of excess capacity.

“The reason there’s a capacity problem doesn’t have anything to do with shelters, or the number of buildings. The reason there’s a capacity problem is because Joe Biden has supercharged the magnet incentivizing record numbers of illegal immigrants across our borders illegally. That’s why there’s a capacity problem.”

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