The Biden administration reversed course on plans to house “tender age” migrant children at a Texas military base following concerns regarding poor conditions and long-term stays, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, CBS News reported Monday.
The Department of Health and Human Services had expected to house up to 5,000 unaccompanied minor children under the age of 12 at Fort Bliss Army base. Becerra’s news marked a change to recent plans.
“We do not intend to house tender age children — children under the age of 12 — at the Fort Bliss facility,” Becerra said, according to CBS.
“We only have kids who are 12 to 17 at the Fort Bliss facility.”
Fort Bliss, a location that could house up to 10,000 unaccompanied minors, has been the subject of much recent criticism.
On April 15, NBC affiliate KTSM-TV reported 2,776 unaccompanied children were staying at the facility.
“The Fort Bliss EIS provides needed capacity to accept children referred by Customs and Border Protection into ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) care where they can be safely processed, cared for, and either released to a sponsor or transferred to an appropriate ORR shelter for longer-term care,” the outlet reported, citing a news release.
On Tuesday, a New York Times report revealed, “According to internal documents, the administration is planning to house up to 10,000 children there, half of whom would be 12 and under.”
The Times added, “About 4,400 teenagers currently live there.”
“I am flabbergasted to learn that Fort Bliss will increase capacity to 10,000 beds,” said Ellen Beattie, a director at the International Rescue Committee, according to The Times.
She also said it was “hard to imagine this being in the best interest of the children there.”
National Center for Youth Law attorney Neha Desai told CBS News, “It is shocking that the government ever contemplated sending young children to a setting that fails to meet rudimentary child welfare standards.”
The news follows reports from earlier in May of multiple flights of unaccompanied minors that arrived in Chattanooga, Tennessee, during overnight hours at Wilson Air Center. The minors were then bused to a variety of locations through contracted tour bus companies.
“A source with direct knowledge of the operation asked to remain anonymous but tells Channel 3 that approximately 30 to 50 minors are transported at a time, some to reunite with family members and others to go to group homes,” WRCB-TV reported.
A Tuesday tweet reported a lower total number of unaccompanied children in custody, yet many concerns continue.
Snapshot: @SecBecerra visiting the Fort Bliss emergency intake site for unaccompanied children yesterday. Saturday: Total number of kids in @HHSGov care across country fell to 19,000. pic.twitter.com/E9vWfg14HV
— Sarah Lovenheim (@HHS_Spox) May 24, 2021
Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said last week that more than 6,000 illegal immigrants were being apprehended attempting the nation’s southern border each day, a rate three times higher than the number that former President Barack Obama called a humanitarian crisis.
We’re apprehending 6,000 people a day at the border.
That’s 3 times the amount President Obama called a humanitarian crisis. pic.twitter.com/iuHOWbg4a4
— Senator Ron Johnson (@SenRonJohnson) May 21, 2021
Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo reported that “453,000 migrants illegally entered the country between February and April.”
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