The Biden Administration is reacting to evidence that conditions at the US / Mexico border are not good.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration is focused on expediting processing and opening more facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border after the publication of photos showing migrant children crowded in a Customs and Border Protection facility in Texas.
“These photos show what we’ve long been saying, which is that these Border Patrol facilities are not places made for children,” Psaki told reporters 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.”
Axios first published the photos Monday taken by Congressman Henry Cuellar, a Democrat who represents a Texas border district.
Cuellar said he released the photos to draw attention to the situation, and to a lack of media access to the facility in the city of Donna.
“These pictures show you that even under our best intentions, and the Biden administration has the best intentions, it’s still very difficult,” Cuellar said.
The congressman said the White House should be working with Mexico and Central American nations to prevent people from leaving their home country in the first place.
Three senior U.S. immigration officials headed to Mexico and Guatemala on Monday for talks with those governments to try to figure out a way to reduce the number of migrants heading north toward the U.S. border.
Ambassador Roberta Jacobson, President Joe Biden’s coordinator for the Southwest border, traveled to Mexico to meet with officials there “to develop an effective and humane plan of action to manage migration,” the U.S. National Security Council said.
She was being joined by Juan Gonzalez, Biden’s senior director for the Western hemisphere, who then was headed to Guatemala to meet with officials there. Gonzalez, a security spokeswoman said, is also talking with representatives from civil society and nongovernment organizations in Guatemala “to address root causes of migration in the region and build a more hopeful future in the region.”
In addition, Richard Zuniga, the State Department’s special envoy to the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, is joining Jacobson and Gonzalez in the talks.
Two months into his presidency, Biden is faced with streams of mostly Central American migrants walking toward the United States, overwhelming border officials who are refusing entry to single adults and families, but caring for thousands of unaccompanied children, as mandated by U.S. law.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told interviewers on Sunday television network talk shows that the country’s southwestern border with Mexico is “secure” and “closed,” yet the United States is seeing Central American migrants arrive at the border at a pace that would be the highest in 20 years.
When he took office, Biden blocked further construction of a border wall championed by former President Donald Trump and embraced what he said would be more humane treatment of migrants. Now, Republican opponents of the Democratic president are blaming him for the thousands of migrants arriving at the border.
Trump, who never conceded his loss to Biden in last November’s election, told the cable news network Fox News on Monday, that his successor is “enforcing nothing” at the southwestern border.
“People are just walking into our country and they will destroy our country,” Trump said.
The former president added, “We want people to come in, but they have to be able to help our country. They have to come in through merit and they have to come in legally.”
Biden has urged migrants to not make the treacherous journey to the United States. His spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, told reporters that since Biden took office, the United States has broadcast more than 17,000 radio ads in Central American countries and more social media statements saying that “our borders are closed. This is not the time to travel.”
The United States currently is holding 15,000 unaccompanied migrant children, nearly a third of them at the border, but Mayorkas said the United States was obligated to care for them, rather than expel them to their home countries as was the policy under Trump.
Mayorkas said it was “just false” to say that the children were “dealt with humanely” under the Trump administration.
“The prior administration dismantled the asylum process,” he told the Fox News Sunday show. “We are encouraging families not to send their children” to the border. But if the children cross into the United States, he said they will be cared for over several days, sent to relatives already living in the United States or placed with vetted people willing to take care of them.
“This is about vulnerable children,” he said. “We can (process them) in a safe and orderly manner. We will succeed.”