The Biden administration moved more than $2 billion earmarked for COVID measures to deal with the influx of migrants at the border

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A Border Patrol temporary processing facility in Donna, Texas, for migrant children and families, pictured March 17, 2021.

  • The Department of Health and Human Services moved more than $2 billion from COVID-related relief funds to help the situation at the border.
  • At the southern border, there’s been an influx of migrants seeking entrance into the country.
  • US officials have struggled to respond to the surge.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Biden administration is funneling more than $2 billion toward the care of migrant children by and along the southern border, Politico reported.

That money had originally been earmarked to go toward various measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic, according to Politico.

The Department of Health and Human Services said $850 million will come from funds originally intended to expand testing for COVID-19, Politico reported.

Another $850 million will be taken out of a fund set aside to help the country rebuild its emergency stockpile of medical items like masks, respirators, and gloves. The Strategic National Stockpile is meant to support the country as it deals with an emergency, but the pandemic has basically emptied it.

Another $436 million coming from various health initiatives will also be diverted to support children at the border, according to Politico.

At the US-Mexico border, there’s been an influx of migrants seeking entrance to the US and fleeing unfavorable or difficult conditions in their home countries.

In response to the surge, the Biden administration opened several temporary federal shelters, and as of early May, Us officials are holding about 22,500 unaccompanied children.

There’s concern that officials have struggled to adequately care for these migrant children. There are reports, for example, that say migrant children are not receiving enough food or appropriate mental health care.

Earlier this year, the public got a first look inside the facility after a Congressional representative leaked photos to the media. One facility showed adults and children sitting in what appeared to be makeshift rooms separating out groups of people.

Each room was cordoned off by what looks like a plastic enclosure, drawing comparisons to jail cells. Dozens of masked children can be seen lying down on gray mats. Some were crowded into corners, despite the threat of the coronavirus spreading. Others appeared to sit on the floor.

Such conditions have caused lawmakers and human-rights experts to sound the alarms and argue that migrant children should have better treatment upon crossing the border.

HHS did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment. But speaking to Politico, HHS spokesperson Mark Weber explained the department is collaborating with the Office of Management and Budget to respond to the influx of migrant at the border.

“All options are on the table,” Weber said. “This program has relied, year after year, on the transfer of funds.”

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Kids held in a Dallas migrant shelter are reportedly hungry and begging volunteers for food

A security guard at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center checks in vehicles carrying basketball hoops Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Dallas. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is using he convention center as an emergency intake site to hold migrant teens who have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border.
A security guard at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center checks in vehicles carrying basketball hoops, March 18, 2021, in Dallas.

  • Migrant children held in a Dallas holding center are hungry and begging for food, The Daily Beast reported.
  • Other reports say the children are also depressed and advocates worry about their mental health.
  • “It’s disturbing,” one volunteer told The Daily Beast. “They are being treated like prisoners, and it’s insane.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

There’s concern that children at one migrant shelter in Dallas, Texas, are being inadequately fed, according to The Daily Beast.

Five volunteers told The Daily Beast migrant children held at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas often said they were hungry and begged for food.

“Numerous children have told me they are hungry and have begged me for additional food even after they have had a meal,” volunteer and special education teacher Kirsten Chilstrom told the outlet. “The food quality is subpar at best.”

Another volunteer, Sam Hodges, said there are problems with rationing the food at the convention center.

Multiple reports painted a concerning picture of conditions at the shelter, which is one of several temporary federal shelters opened to migrants amid a surge at the US-Mexico border. CBS News reported that March counted a record of nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children reaching US custody and 5,767 minors held in custody. Since then, the number has fallen about 88% to 677 unaccompanied children in custody as of May 2.

Earlier this year, the public got a first look inside the facility after a congressional representative leaked photos to the media. One facility showed adults and children sitting in what appeared to be makeshift rooms separating out groups of people.

Each room was cordoned off by what looks like a plastic enclosure, drawing comparisons to jail cells. Dozens of masked children can be seen lying down on gray mats. Some were crowded into corners, despite the threat of the coronavirus spreading. Others appeared to sit on the floor.

Such conditions have caused lawmakers and human-rights experts to sound the alarms and argue that migrant children should have better treatment upon crossing the border.

NBC affiliate KXAS-TV reported that there are concerns related to the mental health of the children in the facility.

“A lot of the kids are stressed out, high anxiety levels,” local LULAC president Rene Martinez told KXAS-TV of the conditions inside. LULAC is a civil-rights organization focusing on supporting Latin American citizens. “There’s been a few fights,” Martinez said.

Other advocates told the Dallas Morning News that kids are being held with limited access to sunlight and there are children with depression.

“It’s disturbing,” Chilstrom told the Daily Beast. “They are being treated like prisoners, and it’s insane.”

The Dallas shelter is managed by a military contractor called Culmen International, the Daily Beast reported. But Culmen does not usually have any input into children’s welfare, according to the Daily Beast.

Culmen International did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. Neither did the Department of Health and Human Services.

But in a statement to the Daily Beast, the agency emphasized that the Dallas shelter provides temporary housing for migrants and said children receive meals and participate in recreational activities, among other things.

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New York Post reporter resigns saying she was ‘ordered’ to write ‘incorrect’ story on Kamala Harris’ book at a migrant shelter

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Fading Page 1 editions of the New York Post are pasted on the wall of the press room in the State Supreme Court building, also known as 100 Centre St., Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in New York.

  • A New York Post reporter who authored a story falsely claiming that migrant children were being given copies of Kamala Harris’ children’s book resigned Tuesday.
  • The reporter, Laura Italiano, said that she’d been “ordered” to write the “incorrect” story and had reached her “breaking point.”
  • The Post temporarily deleted Italiano’s two stories on the topic and republished altered versions hours later with editor’s notes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A New York Post reporter who authored a story falsely claiming that migrant children were being given copies of Vice President Kamala Harris’ children’s book announced on Tuesday that she’d been “ordered” to write the “incorrect” story and resigned from the paper.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Post temporarily deleted Italiano’s two stories on the topic and republished altered versions hours later with editor’s notes.

“An announcement: Today I handed in my resignation to my editors at the New York Post,” Laura Italiano tweeted on Tuesday evening. “The Kamala Harris story – an incorrect story I was ordered to write and which I failed to push back hard enough against – was my breaking point.”

Italiano’s cover story last Friday titled, “Kam On In: Solo kids at border welcomed with copy of veep’s book,” falsely reported that migrant children were provided with “welcome kits” that included Harris’ 2019 book. The story was void of evidence supporting that claim, which appeared entirely based on a Reuters photo showing a single copy of the book propped against a backpack on a table at the Long Beach, California, migrant shelter.

The story was debunked by other news outlets after it was heavily promoted in the right-wing media and brought up in a White House press briefing.

A spokesperson for the city of Long Beach told The Washington Post that the copy of Harris’ book was donated to the shelter by a community member as part of a city-wide book and toy drive to support young migrants. The Post fact-checker gave Italiano’s reporting four “Pinocchios.”

Neither Italiano, nor a spokesperson for the Post immediately responded to Insider’s requests for comment.

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Officials found an unaccompanied 4-year-old boy walking toward the US border, as Biden faces a surge in migrant children trying to enter

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An unaccompanied 4-year-old Honduran child is pictured after being rescued by Mexican officials in the border city of Reynosa, Mexico. Photo edited by Reuters.

  • A four-year-old child was found trying to cross the US-Mexico border by himself.
  • Mexican officials said he was found walking towards the border near the Rio Grande river.
  • An increased number of unaccompanied migrant children have been trying to enter the US.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A four-year-old child was found walking towards the US-Mexico border by himself, officials said Wednesday.

He was found unaccompanied and walking towards the border near the Rio Grande river, said Mexico’s National Migration Institute, according to Reuters.

The boy, from Honduras, was rescued by members of the National Migration Institute and the US National Guard, Reuters reported.

He was found near a group of mothers and children also from Honduras, but none of them claimed responsibility for him or said he was their relative, Reuters said.

The boy and the group were taken into what Reuters described as “a local branch of a Mexican authority dedicated to family welfare.”

An increased number of unaccompanied children have been arriving at the border after policy changes by President Joe Biden’s administration, including measures to reverse controversial Trump-era policies.

The administration says that it doesn’t want to turn them back and to dangerous conditions, and doesn’t want to send them to someone in the US who has not been properly vetted – leading to crowded detention centers at the border.

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Photo shows unaccompanied migrant children crammed in a single playpen at an overcrowded border facility

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Monitored by a caretaker, young unaccompanied migrants, aged from 3 to 9, watch TV inside a playpen at a US Customs and Border Protection facility.

  • A photo shows unaccompanied migrant children housed in a playpen at a border facility.
  • Children aged between 3 and 9 are kept there with mats for sleeping, the AP reported.
  • The facility is overcrowded, and pods around 3,200 square feet had more than 500 children in them.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A photo shows young, unaccompanied migrant children crammed in a playpen at an overcrowded facility at the US-Mexico border.

The single Department of Homeland Security facility in Donna, Texas, that has a capacity of 250 is housing more than 4,000 migrants, including children, the Associated Press reported.

And some pods around 3,200 square feet in size had more than 500 children in them, according to the AP.

One photo shows young children, wearing masks due to the coronavirus pandemic, in a crowded playpen.

According to the AP, the children aged between 3 and 9 are kept apart from everyone else, and are kept in a playpen where they have mats for sleeping. They are the youngest children in that facility’s custody, Oscar Escamilla, acting executive officer of the US Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley, told the AP.

The children in the playpen crossed the US-Mexico border by themselves, Escamilla added.

An increased number of unaccompanied children have been arriving at the US border after policy changes by President Joe Biden’s administration, including measures to reverse controversial Trump-era policies.

The Biden administration says that it doesn’t want to turn unaccompanied children away to dangerous conditions, or to send them to someone in the US who has not been properly vetted – leading to crowded centers at the border.

Human rights groups say that children are being held in “inappropriate” detention centers.

See more photos of the facility here»

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Photos capture the conditions of an overcrowded Texas facility where 4,000 migrants are housed

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Young children look out from inside a pod at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley run by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

More than 4,000 migrants, including many children and families, are being housed in a Department of Homeland Security facility that has a capacity of 250.

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Young children lie inside a pod at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

As thousands of migrant families and unaccompanied children have reached the US Southern border in recent weeks, President Joe Biden has faced increasing scrutiny over the administration’s lack of transparency.

For the first time on Tuesday, US Customs and Border Protection allowed two journalists from The Associated Press and a crew from CBS to tour the Donna, Texas, facility in the Rio Grande Valley. 

The visit revealed a “severely” overcrowded tent facility with a capacity of 250, housing more than 4,000 migrants crammed into pods, according to the AP.

 

 

 

 

 

Kids are being housed by the hundreds in eight small pods. Many had more than 500 kids in them.

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Young children look out from inside a pod at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley run by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

Unaccompanied migrant children are processed in the tent facilities before being taken to Department of Health and Human shelters and then placed with family members or sponsors.

When journalists visited Tuesday, hundreds of kids were being housed in eight small pods about 3,200 square feet in size, the AP reported. Many reportedly had more than 500 kids in them.

 

US Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley told the AP that 250 to 300 children enter daily, but far fewer leave.

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Young children rest inside a pod at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley, in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

 

 

The youngest children are kept in a large play pen and monitored by a caretaker.

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Monitored by a caretaker, young unaccompanied migrants, aged from 3 to 9, watch television inside a playpen at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility.

Unaccompanied migrant children between the ages of 3 to 9 are kept separate from the other detainees and are housed in a small playpen with mats on the floor for sleeping, according to the AP. 

 

When the migrants arrive at the facility, they wait to enter the intake area and be processed.

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Newly migrants wait to enter the intake area at the Donna Processing Center, run by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).

They are given a health inspection and checked for lice first.

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A young migrant gets treated for possible lice before entering the intake area at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility.

Their hair is hosed down and checked for lice before they enter the crowded facility. Minors are checked for scabies, fever, and other ailments, according to the AP. 

Nurse practitioners also give psychological tests to the unaccompanied minors, asking if they have experienced suicidal thoughts.

The facility removes all shoelaces to avoid any harm, the outlet reported. 

 

 

 

COVID-19 tests are only administered to those who show symptoms.

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Young migrants wait to be tested for COVID-19 at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility.

After the medical inspections, the migrants are taken to a second intake room where they receive notices to appear in immigration court.

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Young migrants get processed at the intake area of the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley, in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

 

 

 

Border agents then allow the migrants to speak via phone with a US contact if they have one.

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Migrants speak to their relatives inside a phone booth after being processed at the intake area.

Migrants older than 14 are fingerprinted and have their photos taken. Younger children do not.

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A migrant and her daughter have their biometric data entered at the intake area

The children are given a barcoded bracelet that shows the history of their medical checks and showers.

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Young unaccompanied migrants, wait for their turn at the secondary processing station inside the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility.

Most of the unaccompanied minors have had long journeys to reach the border, including sections on foot, and are eager to rest.

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Young children stand or sleep insides a pod at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompanied children in the Rio Grande Valley, in Donna, Texas, Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

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Human-rights groups are urging the Biden administration to get children out of the makeshift Border Patrol facilities

border patrol migrant children temporary processing facility in Donna, Texas
A temporary processing facility in Donna, Texas, seen on March 17, 2021.

  • Human-rights groups are calling out the Biden administration for crowded Border Patrol facilities.
  • The government is holding migrant children in “inappropriate” detention centers, human-rights groups told Insider.
  • These facilities have not yet been seen by journalists, but government-shared videos show children in crowded spaces and sleeping on mats just inches off the floor.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As shocking videos and images began to emerge showing the inside of various Border Patrol facilities where migrant children are being held in Texas, human-rights groups are calling out the crowded conditions.

These organizations say the holding facilities are inappropriate for children, and they’re urging the Biden administration to find different solutions to temporary migrant housing.

On Monday, Rep. Henry Cuellar shared with Insider photos that gave the public a first look into migrant facilities under the Biden administration.

In these photos, dozens of masked children can be seen lying down on gray mats. Some are crowded into corners, despite the threat of the coronavirus spreading. Others are simply sitting on the floor.

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A Border Patrol facility in Donna, Texas, housing migrant children on the weekend of March 20, 2021.

On Tuesday, US Customs and Border Protection, under pressure from journalists who have repeatedly requested access into the facilities, posted two videos of the inside of various holding centers that were taken last week. The Biden administration has so far barred journalists from viewing and entering the facilities, citing privacy and coronavirus concerns.

These government-produced and -released videos showed that dozens of children are being held in crowded conditions that lawmakers believe will evolve into a humanitarian crisis. Many children are seen sleeping on mats just inches off the floor. Groups of them sit in plastic-enclosed spaces, clutching foil blankets as they sleep. There are few adults in each space.

It’s these conditions that human-rights organizations are calling inappropriate.

“Border Patrol stations are not an appropriate place to hold children and asylum seekers,” Clara Long, associate director at Human Rights Watch, told Insider.

Former President Donald Trump has been out of office for two months now. But experts say his administration has had a lasting impact on how the Biden administration is navigating immigration policy.

“What we’re seeing is the consequence of dedicated negligence from the previous administration – a lack of planning and resources invested in facilities to welcome children seeking safety, who were already arriving,” said Denise Bell, Amnesty International’s researcher for refugee and migrant rights.

“And that is where we must focus: the children who are seeking safety,” Bell added. “The conditions need to be much better and much faster.”

Temporary Processing Facilities cbp migrant children border patrol
A Border Patrol temporary processing facility in Donna, Texas, for migrant children and families, pictured March 17, 2021.

During the 2020 presidential election, Biden positioned himself as a pro-immigration candidate focused on bettering the system for incoming migrants.

In January 2019, for example, Biden slammed Trump’s idea to build a wall along the southern border. “We need border security but that’s not the border security we need,” he said.

Now that he’s in office, Biden is working to deliver on promises he made on the campaign trail, enacting measures to reverse controversial Trump-era policies.

These key changes put forth by the Biden administration, however, have led to thousands of migrants – and many unaccompanied children – traveling to the US-Mexico border from Central America as they flee persecution, violence, and poverty in their home countries.

According to senior administration officials, CBP had approximately 4,500 unaccompanied minors in holding as of Thursday, while the Department of Health and Human Services has more than 9,000 children in its care.

In an attempt to mitigate the surge of migrants, the Biden administration has opened up various Border Patrol facilities for temporary housing.

“The Biden administration inherited a broken, diminished system,” Long said. “It’s not surprising that things are taking a while to get in to hand. What we need to see from the Biden administration is consistent progress toward the goals it has articulated: humane and dignified border reception, holistic policy responses to migration and access to protection for those who need it.”

For its part, the Biden administration is taking steps to limit immigration to the border.

The State Department has created more than 17,100 ads since January 21 to discourage people from migrating. These ads have reached about 15 million people, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a Monday briefing.

It’s not clear whether this approach to limit immigration to the United States is working.

“This is just part of our effort to send a clear message,” Psaki said. “But there is no question that funding is needed to address the root causes in these countries.”

White House officials and immigration experts have so far refrained from calling the surge a crisis. But the Biden administration recognizes that the facilities are not meant for long-term accommodations.

“These Border Patrol facilities are not places made for children,” Psaki said. “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.”

Detention is psychologically damaging to children

The children are held in border facilities as they await transfer to other federal agencies. The government is required to transfer migrant children to Health and Human Services custody within 72 hours. But with the influx of unaccompanied minors coming to the US-Mexico border, nearly 3,000 children have been held beyond that limit, CBS News reported.

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A Border Patrol temporary processing facility in Donna, Texas, for migrant children and families, pictured March 17, 2021.

“Even short stays in detention centers have the potential to be traumatic experiences,” said Kathryn Humphreys, assistant professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University.

“We know from our research on orphanage care that children fare best when they have reduced exposure to group-based care and long-term family-based placements when they form relationships with those that are their parents or parent-figures,” she added.

CPB and HHS custody and detention centers qualify as group-based care. Such environments normally do not allow children to form the type of relationships with adults that help them grow and develop, Humphreys told Insider.

Adults help “co-regulate children, both emotionally and physiologically,” she said. Going without these trusted adults, even for short periods of time, can lead to stress in children and them falling behind developmentally, socially, and academically.

The Biden administration is “obligated to hold children in conditions that meet United States and international standards that support their best interests,” Bell of Amnesty International said. “Children must be held in conditions that meet their best interests and safely reunified with families and sponsors much more quickly.”

“This is a time for transformation – as the administration adapts right now, it must also set in motion the changes needed for a new system where detention is not assumed and children are with their parents and sponsors,” Bell added.

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A growing number of migrant children are reaching the border. Here’s what experts say the Biden administration can do to address the situation.

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Children play as families of asylum seekers wait outside the El Chaparral border crossing port as they wait to cross into the United States from Tijuana, Mexico on February 19, 2021.

  • The number of unaccompanied migrant children reaching the US Southern border is rising.
  • Overall migrant encounters have also increased due to a yearlong backlog stemming from COVID-19.
  • Experts say there are four key steps the Biden administration should take to address the situation.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The number of unaccompanied migrant children detained at the US Southern border has more than tripled in the past few weeks, straining facilities and ramping up pressure on the Biden administration to address the situation.

But while the thousands of children being held in Customs and Border Protection facilities may harken back to the horrifying images of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, immigration experts say the reality of the current border situation is more complicated than a simple “crisis.”

What’s happening and why?

The number of unaccompanied migrant children detained at the border has continued to rise throughout the first three months of 2021. According to senior administration officials, Customs and Border Patrol had approximately 4,500 unaccompanied minors in holding as of Thursday, while the Department of Health and Human Services has more than 9,000 children currently in its care.

Nearly 3,000 of the children detained by Border Patrol have been held beyond the 72-hour limit permitted by federal law before a child must be moved to an HHS facility, CBS News reported Tuesday.

But the increased numbers go beyond just children. Border agents encountered approximately 100,000 individuals attempting to enter the country in the month of February – a 28% increase over January, according to senior administration officials. January saw nearly 78,000 migrant encounters, a rate more than doubled from the same time last year, The New York Times reported.

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told Insider the border is seeing an increased number of migrants, in part, because of a backlog of people who have not been allowed in to the country over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the coronavirus pandemic took hold in spring 2020, former President Donald Trump implemented a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regulation known as Title 42 that effectively halted all crossings at the border in the name of COVID-19 prevention.

Since taking office in January, President Joe Biden has mostly maintained the policy, lifting the order for unaccompanied minors, allowing only children to cross and presenting a heartbreaking choice for migrant parents who reach the border: full family expulsion or send their child across alone.

Experts say Biden’s partial repeal of Title 42 has contributed to the increase in unaccompanied minors, while its year-long existence has led to a backlog resulting in the higher number of overall border encounters so far this year.

The increase could also stem in part from a friendlier administration, according to Southern Border Communities Coalition steering committee member Pedro Rios, who said some immigrants may see the Biden administration as a more welcoming government, though Rios stressed he was hesitant to suggest Biden was the “absolute” reason behind increasing migrant numbers.

In fact, Biden spoke directly to Central American migrants in a televised interview this week, rejecting that notion and telling them: “Don’t come over.”

“I heard the idea that they’re coming because I’m a nice guy,” he said.

Politicians and news outlets have responded to the increased numbers with alarm, calling the situation a “surge,” a “crisis,” and “unprecedented.”

But experts say that’s not quite the case.

Is the current border situation really a crisis for the administration? Or a pattern?

According to three immigration experts that Insider spoke with the situation is not yet a “crisis.”

“We’ve had higher numbers in the past and every time something like this happens, they call it a crisis, or a surge, or an influx,” Carol Anne Donohoe, managing attorney for Al Otro Lado’s family reunification program, said. “How many crises, surges, and influxes do you have before you say this is actually a pattern and we should do something proactively?”

Senior administration officials echoed that idea in a media call Thursday.

“Children presenting themselves at the border is not a national crisis,” one official said. “January 20 was not the moment that all of a sudden the border looked differently. Numbers increase and decrease all the time.”

Vicki Gaubeca, Southern Border Communities Coalition director, told Insider the situation is neither new nor unexpected, though the pandemic has complicated the response typically led by non-governmental organizations and volunteers at the border.

“I don’t think people should be panicking, it’s not a crisis,” Gaubeca said. “I agree with the Biden administration, it’s just a challenge that we need to figure out how to address.”

Earlier this month, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas denied there was a “crisis” at the border, calling the situation a “challenge.”

Gelernt agreed, saying the federal government has more than enough resources to handle the numbers, which are not historically high.

He also cautioned that the numbers could be misleading. Border counts of encounters and apprehensions don’t reflect the number of individuals seeking to enter the country, but instead, account for each incident, which often results in the same individual being counted multiple times.

Though he doesn’t think the current border circumstances constitute a crisis for the federal government, Gelernt did stress that the ongoing situation is a humanitarian crisis.

During his presidential campaign, Biden presented himself as the more humane immigration candidate. Now, the president faces growing political and public pressure to address the situation and avoid the horrifying aspects of the Trump administration’s immigration efforts.

Here are four steps immigration experts say the Biden administration should take to avoid a real crisis.

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Dareli Matamoros, a girl from Honduras, holds a sign asking President Biden to let her in during a migrant demonstration demanding clearer United States migration policies, at San Ysidro crossing port in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico on March 2, 2021.

End Title 42

All four experts agreed – the first and fastest step Biden can take to address the growing number of unaccompanied minors is to revoke the Trump-era holdover order.

Citing public health concerns, Trump invoked Title 42 last March, expelling all people apprehended between ports of entry and effectively eliminating migrants’ right to seek asylum in the US.

“We expected the Biden administration to eliminate that policy. It has not done so for adults or families yet, though it has for unaccompanied children,” Gelernt said. “Advocates throughout the country are becoming impatient.”

Ending Title 42 would allow parents and children to enter the country together and would restore asylum seekers’ right to a hearing.

Additionally, the Trump administration’s invocation of Title 42 likely did little to slow the spread of the virus, according to Donohoe and Gelernt, who both noted the federal government overruled the Centers for Disease Control last March when the agency’s top doctor told federal officials there was no evidence that implementing Title 42 would slow the spread.

Donohoe said the CDC has made it clear that border activities can continue safely if migrants are tested for COVID-19 and quarantined after crossing.

“I would argue that if we were concerned about immigrants and public health and all of that, we wouldn’t have our ICE detention facilities filled during a pandemic,” Donohoe said. “So my only guess is that this is a way to stem the flow of immigrants and asylum seekers.”

The ACLU is currently in discussions to settle a lawsuit over Title 42, Gelernt told Insider.

“We hope that the Biden administration is not allowing politics to interfere with its decision to provide families with asylum hearings and likewise, hope that the Biden administration is not using a public health measure to control migration flows unrelated to public health requirements,” Gelernt said.

Provide more funding and resources for holistic border support

Experts also encouraged the Biden administration to increase federal funding and resources to both address the growing numbers of migrants and avoid the horrific conditions that often come with influxes.

The agency in charge of processing asylum seekers – Customs and Border Protection – isn’t known for its welcoming demeanor, according to Gaubeca, who said the agency’s union was openly supportive of Trump both times he ran.

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Customs and Border Protection officers stand with shields at the border crossing, Monday, March 1, 2021, seen from Tijuana, Mexico.

“I think they like the idea of just being enforcement only. They don’t like having to take care of unaccompanied children,” Gaubeca said. “Border patrol wasn’t trained to take care of families.”

As a result, Gaubeca said the Biden administration should direct resources toward creating community-based welcoming centers staffed by medical professionals, trauma specialists, and childcare specialists.

Gelernt also stressed the need for more funding, urging the administration to coordinate with NGOs working around the border that have been preparing for increased migrant numbers for months. These organizations are ready to COVID-test families, house migrants, and provide basic necessities, according to Gelernt, but they need coordination from the Biden administration to do so successfully.

Gaubeca advocated for targeted federal funding toward addressing the root causes of mass migration – a step she said the Biden administration has already started to take by including money to address violence in Central America in its US Citizenship Act of 2021.

Don’t place children in carceral settings and keep their stays short

The surest way for the Biden administration to avoid the public outcry of 2018 that stemmed from immigrant children in cages is to simply keep kids out of cages, experts said.

Children should not be placed in carceral settings or unlicensed facilities, according to Donohoe and Gelernt, but instead should be kept in child-appropriate settings with small group settings and a high staff-to-child ratio.

“The idea is not to warehouse hundreds of children in one location,” Donohoe said. “It’s to spread them out into more home-like settings until…they can do their due diligence to find a sponsor or a safe foster family.”

A senior administration official said Thursday that the seven-day average length of care for unaccompanied migrant children in HHS facilities is 34 days. The official said the administration is committed to trying to reduce that number.

Donohoe and Gelernt both encouraged the administration to focus on quickly locating sponsors or relatives for unaccompanied children and to keep their detainment short. In order to expedite that process, other immigrants in the country acting as sponsors shouldn’t be made to feel afraid to come forward and claim a child, Donohoe said.

For-profit emergency shelters have drawn criticism from immigration experts who decry the centers’ lack of transparency and less-than-stellar conditions. While most child migrant facilities are subject to state licensing requirements, according to The Washington Post, temporary surge centers like the Texas tent facility, Carrizo, that the Biden administration reopened late last month, are not.

Licensed facilities are also more cost-efficient and well-regulated than overflow facilities, according to Donohoe, who said privately-run overflow facilities cost between $850 and $1,000 a day per child while licensed facilities cost between $200 to $300.

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In this March 27, 2019, file photo, Central American migrants wait for food in a pen erected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to process a surge of migrant families and unaccompanied minors in El Paso, Texas.

Still, she cautioned people against latching on to easy sound bites like “kids in cages.”

“Cages come in many forms,” Donohoe said. “It doesn’t make it any better that it has cement walls versus a chain-link fence.”

Change the public perception of the border

Conversations about immigrants coming to the US often rely on water imagery and metaphors – like “surge” “flood,” “flow,” “stream,” and “waves” – according to Rios, who said that language tends to degrade and dehumanize the people who are migrating and their reasons for doing so.

“I think it takes away from some of the structural problems that are causing the reasons for why people are migrating,” Rios told Insider.

The other experts agreed.

“I do think there’s a shift in how we can talk about the border, not as being a place that needs to be secured but as a place that needs to be managed better,” Gaubeca said. “Changing the narrative about what the border is is really important.”

According to Donohoe, two institutions have a key role to play in changing that narrative: the Biden administration and the media.

“Public perception is driven by the press and what the administration says,” she said. “And I think any administration is hyper-aware of that.”

Calling the situation a “crisis” or a “surge” emboldens conservatives to ramp up criticism over Biden’s handling of immigration, according to Donohoe, who said that public disapproval and resulting panic often leads to the creation of more overflow facilities and harsher policies.

For four years Trump “dehumanized” immigrant populations and propagated a narrative that migrants were coming to take advantage of the US, Gelernt said. As a result, Biden now has a responsibility to change the narrative about who these people are and why they’re coming, according to the attorney.

“I would urge people to try not to think of immigrants in the abstract, but to think about the immigrant you know,” Gelernt said.

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In this Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, David Xol-Cholom, of Guatemala, hugs his son Byron at Los Angeles International Airport as they reunite after being separated during the Trump administration’s wide-scale separation of immigrant families, in Los Angeles.

How confident are experts the Biden administration will take these steps?

Donohoe, Gaubeca, and Gelernt all signaled they were cautiously optimistic about the Biden administration’s immigration efforts, acknowledging that his predecessor “wreaked havoc” on the border and left an “enormous mess” behind.

Still, Donohoe said immigration experts are “always wary,” and have “no illusions” that a Democratic president guarantees change.

Donohoe said Secretary Mayorkas has signaled the administration may soon be making changes to Title 42 concerning families – a move experts are impatiently awaiting.

“[The Biden administration’s] certainly more of a humanitarian administration than the one previous, ” Donohoe told Insider. “So anything that they undo is moving forward.”

Gaubeca too, said she’s seen signals the administration wants to make changes, but emphasized that processes take time.

“Realistically speaking, there are a lot of steps that the administration knows they have to take, but I think they’re trying to do things in a very measured way, and they’re also trying to build something that was pretty much destroyed by the former administration,” Gaubeca said.

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The Biden administration is mobilizing FEMA amid record numbers of migrant children and teens at the border

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Central American asylum seekers arrive to a bus station after being released by U.S. Border Patrol agents on February 26, 2021 in Brownsville, Texas.

  • The Biden administration mobilized FEMA for 90 days to assist with migrant children at the border.
  • Record numbers of unaccompanied minor children have recently arrived at the US-Mexico border.
  • The children have reportedly been suffering overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Biden administration on Saturday evening mobilized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to a major influx of migrant children arriving at the US-Mexico border.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that FEMA will be assisting in “a government-wide effort over the next 90 days to safely receive, shelter, and transfer unaccompanied children who make the dangerous journey to the US southwest border.”

Data from the Customs and Border Protection agency show a skyrocketing rate of apprehensions at the US-Mexico border in recent months, similar to the numbers in 2019 when hundreds of thousands of migrant families journeyed to the US from Central America, seeking asylum.

In February, CBP recorded a whopping 100,441 apprehensions at the border, most of them either unaccompanied minors or members of families that had traveled together.

The numbers of migrants arriving in the US vastly outstrip CBP’s resources – particularly when it comes to detaining and processing children. Typically, unaccompanied children at the border are first processed by CBP officials, then sent to shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services, which places the children with relatives or other sponsors while their immigration cases are processed through the court system.

But both CBP and HHS are struggling to make space for the children. One recent New York Times report revealed that under the Biden administration, border officials had detained more than 1,360 migrant children longer than the mandatory 72-hour limit permitted by US law.

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Central American asylum seekers arrive to a bus station while being released by U.S. Border Patrol agents on February 26, 2021 in Brownsville, Texas.

President Joe Biden has vowed to set a new tone with his immigration agenda and rid the federal government of the Trump administration’s “cruel and senseless policies” toward migrant children. But already, a number of reports have documented similar instances of severe overcrowding, and unsanitary and inhumane conditions.

Several nonprofit lawyers who visited a Border Patrol tent facility in Texas found children packed together and sleeping on the floor due to the lack of mats. The lawyers said some children had to wait five or more days for a shower, often without any soap available.

Their observations echoed similar reports during the Trump era, in which migrant children endured inedible food, undrinkable water, open toilets, exposure to illnesses, and no soap, toothbrushes, or showers to clean themselves. Some were detained in tents, others in freezing cold Border Patrol facilities, and others still in open-air enclosures in parking lots. Several children even died in Border Patrol custody.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas noted in a statement on Saturday that “a Border Patrol facility is no place for a child.”

He continued: “We are working in partnership with [the Department of Health and Human Services] to address the needs of unaccompanied children, which is made only more difficult given the protocols and restrictions required to protect the public health and the health of the children themselves.”

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