HOUSTON — President Joe Biden’s administration has reopened a tent facility to house up to 700 immigrant teenagers after they cross the U.S.-Mexico border unaccompanied by a parent.
This is the first migrant child facility to open under the Biden administration, and they say it is temporary during the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. Health and Human Services said Monday that the first teens arrived at Carrizo Springs, Texas, which was converted two years ago into a holding facility under former President Donald Trump.
It was only open a month in the summer of 2019, and has been closed ever since.
Officials say the emergency facility is needed because current facilities for children have had to cut their capacity in half with health and safety measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border has been increasing, according to the Washington Post.
"Our intention is very much to close it, but we want to ensure that we can follow ...COVID protocols, as we -- as unaccompanied minors come into the United States," Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters this week.
Some are criticizing the decision, saying re-opening the tent facility in Carrizo Springs, which was the site of protests and controversy, appears to go against Biden's statements about immigration.
“It’s a step backward, is what it is. It’s a huge step backward," Linda Brandmiller, a San Antonio-based immigration lawyer who represents unaccompanied minors, told the Washington Post.
Biden's plan is also getting push back from members of the Democratic party, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. On Twitter, she called out the plan saying "this is not okay, never has been okay, never will be okay."
This is not okay, never has been okay, never will be okay - no matter the administration or party. https://t.co/AEV7s7QQnB— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 23, 2021
Ocasio-Crotez is calling for an overhaul of the immigration system that would break-up parts of the Department of Homeland Security, which includes ICE.
Currently, the facility in Carrizo Springs is being run by another agency, Health and Human Services.
The facility includes tents and trailers for sleeping, living and dining, as well as a soccer field and basketball court, a barbershop and classrooms.
The Biden administration has recently introduced measures that would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, they also reversed policies from former President Donald Trump that blocked the admission of unaccompanied minors into the U.S.