President Joe Biden’s administration is advising long-term centers that house foreign children to relax space limits imposed after the coronavirus pandemic in order to make room for much-needed beds in a facility that is experiencing rapidly rising demand.
The US Department of Health and Human Services released a circular on Friday instructing service providers to “temporarily raise availability to maximum licenced capacity… thus enforcing and adhering to stringent COVID-19 mitigation measures.” It is unclear how many more beds would become accessible after the nearly 7,000 that were mentioned online last month. At the end of last year, HHS had a completely licenced capacity of more than 13,000 beds.
During the coronavirus pandemic, certain facilities cut their size by as much as half. Meanwhile, the US Border Patrol is holding hundreds of children who are waiting to be put in HHS’ scheme in tent facilities or big, freezing cells that are not designed to accommodate minors. Images and reports of families and young kids having to fend for themselves without sufficient food and water caused indignation in 2018 and 2019, with reports of families and single children fending by themselves without sufficient food and water.
The removal of pandemic-related restrictions could increase the risk of the coronavirus circulating inside HHS facilities, particularly if more children are admitted. However, the agencies that operate HHS facilities, as well as some supporters, have advocated for additional beds to be made accessible if handled safely, rather than the option of holding children in Border Patrol facilities for longer or putting them in expensive, unlicensed emergency centres.
According to the memo, which was first published by CNN, “given the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no 0 percent danger scenario, especially in congregate settings.” “As a result, ORR facilities should anticipate COVID-19 instances and prepare accordingly.”
When a child is transferred to a parent or other supporter, HHS has previously approved facility operators to charge the government for travel expenses. Some families are unable to afford the hundreds of dollars required to fly a child and a guardian, and reimbursement problems will cause a child’s release to be delayed for many days.
Agents are detaining about 400 children a day that are not assisted by a parent or guardian, a significant rise from the previous month. There are fears that these figures will begin to climb.
Under a public-health declaration adopted after the pandemic, Biden halted a tradition started by former President Donald Trump of deporting unaccompanied minors, while his government continues to deport undocumented families and adults. Former Trump administration officials also accused Biden of encouraging immigrants to continue to infiltrate the United States illegally, despite the fact that the number of undocumented immigrants has not reached Trump’s highest.
The method of removing children from their homes was widely criticised, as it often placed them in precarious conditions without giving them the opportunity to obtain refuge or consult with a lawyer. The underlying public-health statement was reportedly released under pressure from former Vice President Mike Pence, according to the Associated Press.
Trump said in a tweet on Friday that the “border is now completely out of balance due to Joe Biden’s disastrous leadership.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki replied on Friday, saying, “We should not take our advice or guidance from former President Trump on immigration reform, which was not only inhumane but futile during the last four years.” “We are going to forge our own way together, which means treating children with humanity and reverence, as well as maintaining their safety when they reach our borders.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as well as other Republicans have recently chastised Biden for releasing undocumented families in the state’s south. Because of a policy reform in Mexico’s Tamaulipas province, border officials have avoided expelling families of small children from several Texas towns. Local governments and community organisations in many communities are testing recently released families for COVID-19 and directing all who have the infection to shelters or hotel rooms designated for them.