The ACLU is running a two-page NYT ad on Mother’s Day urging the Biden administration to reunite migrant parents and children

An ad from the ACLU slated to run in the New York Times on Sunday.
An ad from the ACLU slated to run in the New York Times on Sunday.

  • The ACLU is urging that the Biden administration reunite families separated at the US-Mexico border.
  • The Biden administration has been working to reverse various Trump-era immigration policies.
  • There are still about 1,000 families who remain separated, according to the ACLU.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The American Civil Liberties Union took out a two-page ad in the Sunday New York Times that urges the Biden administration to reunite migrant families with their children.

The ad, meant to illustrate wall markings that track a child’s growth, is slated to run on Mother’s Day, an ACLU spokesperson confirmed to Insider. Axios first reported the news.

“Another birthday all by myself,” one of the ticks reads.

“I feel sad all the time,” another tick reads.

The Trump administration, in an immigration crackdown, removed about 5,500 children from their parents upon arriving to the US-Mexico border. Upon their separation, the Trump administration held children in cages, a controversial move that’s widely regarded as one of the former president’s biggest failures.

The ACLU in 2018 sued the Trump administration, in which a federal court in San Diego ruled that it’s unconstitutional to separate parents and children.

When now-President Joe Biden entered office, he promised to reunite families separated at the border. But the local of hundreds of parents remains unknown, and about 1,000 families still remain separated, the ACLU said in a press release.

“This Mother’s Day, hundreds of children remain separated from their mothers and thousands of others are suffering from the trauma Trump’s family separation practice inflicted,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said in a statement. “More than 5,500 families have suffered unimaginable trauma and deserve a path to citizenship, immediate care, and resources to help them.”

Biden, about two weeks into his first term as president, signed an executive order that rescinded Trump’s immigration policy. The order also instilled a Family Reunification Task Force, charged with leading the effort to bring together separated families.

The task force is expected to deliver a progress report on June 2.

“This Mother’s Day, despite the change in administration, hundreds of people will be forcibly expelled from the United States – including mothers traveling with or to their children – under a Trump-invented process that entirely bypasses the asylum laws,” Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement.

“President Biden promised to build a humane immigration system that aligns with our values,” Jadwat added in the statement. “Today millions of lives depend on his ability to deliver on that promise.”

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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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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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Rep. Veronica Escobar says that Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn are using the southern border ‘as a prop’

Veronica Escobar
Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) speaks on Capitol Hill.

  • Rep. Veronica Escobar said that Sens. Cruz and Cornyn are using the border “as a prop.”
  • Escobar said that the root causes of immigration must be addressed or the situation will not change.
  • “They had their chance to govern,” she said of Cruz and Cornyn. “They chose not to.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas said in a recent Daily Beast podcast interview that a southern border tour held last Friday by GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn was simply “political theater.”

During an episode of “The New Abnormal” featuring editor-at-large Molly Jong-Fast, Escobar lamented that immigration has been politicized to a point where crafting real solutions has been absent from the debate.

“I think there are 18 senators that are parachuting into Texas and that delegation is led by John Cornyn and Ted Cruz,” she said. “These are people who are about to engage in political theater, use the border as a prop, [and] do a whole lot of complaining and finger-pointing. But these are the same people who’ve been in the Senate for a number of years.”

She added: “They were in the Senate when their party had control of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives. They did not solve this problem.”

Escobar said that with the exception of former President Donald Trump’s child separation policy, the “vast majority” of his immigration policies are still in effect.

“It didn’t stop people from coming,” she said. “They had their chance to govern. They chose not to.”

The offices of Cruz and Cornyn did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Read more: Meet the presidential confidants, Delaware’s closely-knit and well-positioned congressional delegation, Joe Biden’s entrusted with cementing his legacy

In 2014, Escobar, who represents a border district anchored in El Paso, wrote a piece called “Why the Border Crisis Is a Myth,” where she said many politicians were catering anti-immigrant sentiments to justify tightened immigration restrictions.

“What has happened repeatedly from Washington has been this idea that if we could just tough enough on the border, all of our immigration challenges will go away,” she said. “The walls kept getting bigger and taller and thicker and uglier, [with] investments in drones and personnel. Enter Donald Trump and his cruelty and dehumanization. What we now know after four years of some of the most draconian immigration policies is unless you address the root causes, you’re not going to change things much.”

She added: “The other thing that I hope we realize is that migration will happen. You cannot stop migration. People move around. What you can do is do your best as a country to work collaboratively with leaders of your hemisphere.”

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the former 2020 Democratic presidential contender and 2018 Democratic Senate nominee in Texas, recently mocked Cruz’s footage of his border excursion at the Rio Grande.

In a blurry video that Cruz posted on his Twitter account, he alleged to have observed smugglers on the other side of the US-Mexico border.

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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.

migrant children border patrol facility us mexico border biden administration
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.

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.

“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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The ‘border-industrial complex’ is bigger than Trump or Biden, and it thrives on crisis

us-mexico border arizona
US Border Patrol agents follow the tire tracks of drug smugglers through the Sonoran Desert in the Tohono O’odham Reservation in Arizona, near the US-Mexico border, December 9, 2010.

  • President Donald Trump made the US-Mexico border, and migration there, a centerpiece of his presidency.
  • An influx of migrants at the border has become a dominant issue of President Joe Biden’s first weeks in office.
  • How Biden addresses the border remains to be seen, but his administration will be no less caught in the border-industrial complex than Trump’s, writes journalist Todd Miller.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In late February, I drove to see the Trump wall in Sasabe, Arizona. As soon as I parked, a green-striped Border Patrol vehicle stationed a quarter of a mile away began to creep down the dirt road toward us. Just ahead, a dystopian “No Trespassing” sign was flapping in the wind.

It was cold as I stepped out of the car with my 5-year-old son, William. The wall ahead of us, 30-feet high with steel bollards, was indeed imposing as it quavered slightly in the wind. Through its bars we could see Mexico, a broken panorama of hills filled with mesquites backed by a blue sky.

The Homeland Security vehicle soon pulled up next to us. An agent rolled down his window and asked me, “What are you doing? Joyriding?”

After I laughed in response to a word I hadn’t heard in years, the agent informed us that we were in a dangerous construction zone, even if this part of the wall had been built four months earlier. I glanced around. There were no bulldozers, excavators, or construction equipment of any sort. I wondered whether the lack of machinery reflected the campaign promise of the recently inaugurated Joe Biden that “not another foot” of Trump’s wall would be built.

Indeed, that was why I was here – to see what the border looked like as the post-Trump era began. President Biden had started his term with strong promises to reverse the border policies of his predecessor: families torn apart would be reunited and asylum seekers previously forced to stay in Mexico allowed to enter the United States. Given the Trump years, the proposals of the new administration sounded almost revolutionary.

Border wall
A Honduran migrant grabs his son as they climb the border fence before jumping from from Tijuana, Mexico, to San Diego, California.

And yet something else bothered me as we drove away: Everything looked the same as it had for years. I’ve been coming to this stretch of border since 2001. I’ve witnessed its incremental disfigurement during the most dramatic border fortification period in this country’s history.

In the early 2000s came an influx of Border Patrol agents, followed in 2007 by the construction of a 15-foot wall (that Sen. Joe Biden voted for), followed by high-tech surveillance towers, courtesy of a multibillion-dollar contract with the Boeing Corporation.

Believe me, the forces that shaped our southern border over the decades have been far more powerful than Donald Trump or any individual politician. During the 2020 election, it was commonly asserted that, by getting rid of Trump, the United States would create a more humane border and immigration system. And there was a certain truth to that, but a distinctly limited one.

Underneath the theater of partisan politics, there remains a churning border-industrial complex, a conjunction of entrenched interests and relationships between the US government – particularly the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – and private corporations that has received very little attention.

The small border town of Sasabe and its surrounding region is a microcosm of this.

The cumulative force of that complex will now carry on in Trump’s wake. Indeed, during the 2020 election the border industry, created through decades of bipartisan fortification, actually donated more money to the Biden campaign and the Democrats than to Trump and the Republicans.

The complex

border wall
Government contractors erect a section of Pentagon-funded border wall along the Colorado River in Yuma, Arizona, September 10, 2019.

In the 12 years from 2008 to 2020, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) dolled out 105,000 contracts, or a breathtaking average of 24 contracts a day, worth $55 billion to private contractors. That sum exceeded their $52 billion collective budgets for border and immigration enforcement for the 28 years from 1975 to 2003.

While those contracts included ones for companies like Fisher Sand and Gravel that built the 30-foot wall my son and I saw in Sasabe, many of them – including the most expensive – went to companies creating high-tech border fortification, ranging from sophisticated camera systems to advanced biometric and data-processing technologies.

This might explain the border industry’s interest in candidate Biden, who promised: “I’m going to make sure that we have border protection, but it’s going to be based on making sure that we use high-tech capacity to deal with it.”

Behind that bold, declarative sentence lay an all-too-familiar version of technological border protection sold as something so much more innocuous, harmless, and humane than what Trump was offering. As it happens, despite our former president’s urge to create a literal wall across hundreds of miles of borderlands, high-technology has long been and even in the Trump years remained a large part of the border-industrial complex.

One pivotal moment for that complex came in 2005 when the deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Jackson (previously Lockheed Martin’s chief operating officer), addressed a conference room of border-industry representatives about creating a virtual or technological wall.

“This is an unusual invitation,” he said then. “I want to make sure you have it clearly, that we’re asking you to come back and tell us how to do our business. We’re asking you. We’re inviting you to tell us how to run our organization.”

Of course, by then, the border and immigration enforcement system had already been on a growth spurt. During President Bill Clinton’s administration (1993-2001), for example, its annual budgets had nearly tripled from $1.5 billion to $4.3 billion.

Clinton, in fact, initiated the immigration deterrence system still in place today in which Washington deployed armed agents, barriers, and walls, as well as high-tech systems to block the traditional urban places where immigrants had once crossed. They were funneled instead into dangerous and deadly spots like the remote and brutal Arizona desert around Sasabe. As Clinton put it in his 1995 State of the Union address:

“[O]ur administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens.”

Sound familiar?

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An US Border Patrol agent near the border fence in Columbus, New Mexico, February 19, 2017.

The Clinton years, however, already seemed like ancient times when Jackson made that 2005 plea. He was speaking in the midst of a burgeoning Homeland Security era. After all, DHS was only created in 2002 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

In fact, during George W. Bush’s years in office, border and immigration enforcement budgets grew from $4.2 billion in 2000 to $15.2 billion in 2008 – more, that is, than during any other presidency including Donald Trump’s. Under Bush, that border became another front in the war on terror (even if no terrorists crossed it), opening the money faucets. And that was what Jackson was underscoring – the advent of a new reality that would produce tens of thousands of contracts for private companies.

In addition, as US war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq began to wane, many security and defense companies pivoted toward the new border market. As one vendor pointed out to me at a Border Security Expo in Phoenix in 2012, “We are bringing the battlefield to the border.” That vendor, who had been a soldier in Afghanistan a few years earlier, smiled confidently, the banners of large weapons-makers like Raytheon hanging above him.

At the time (as now), an “unprecedented boom period” was forecast for the border market. As the company VisionGain explained then, a “virtuous circle … would continue to drive spending in the long-term based on three interlocking developments: ‘illegal immigration and terrorist infiltration,’ more money for border policing in ‘developing countries,’ and the ‘maturation’ of new technologies.”

Since 9/11, border-security corporate giants became big campaign contributors not only to presidential candidates, but also to key members of the Appropriations Committees and the Homeland Security Committees (both House and Senate) – all crucial when it came to border policies, contracts, and budgets.

Between 2006 and 2018, top border contractors like General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon contributed a total of $27.6 million to members of the House Appropriations Committee and $6.5 million to members of the House Homeland Security Committee. And from 2002 to 2019, there were nearly 20,000 reported lobbying “visits” to congressional offices related to homeland security. The 2,841 visits reported for 2018 alone included ones from top CBP and ICE contractors Accenture, CoreCivic, GeoGroup, L3Harris, and Leidos.

By the time Donald Trump entered the White House in 2017, the border-industrial complex was truly humming. That year, he would oversee a $20 billion border and immigration budget and have at his disposal nearly 20,000 Border Patrol agents (up from 4,000 in 1994), 650 miles of already built walls and barriers, billions of dollars in border technology then in place, and more than 200 immigration-detention centers across the United States.

He claimed he was going to build his very own “big, fat, beautiful wall,” most of which, as it turned out, already existed. He claimed that he was going to clamp down on a border that was already remarkably clamped down upon. And in his own fashion, he took it to new levels.

That’s what we saw in Sasabe, where a 15-foot wall had recently been replaced with a 30-foot wall. As it happened, much of the 450 miles of wall the Trump administration did, in the end, build really involved interchanging already existing smaller barriers with monstrous ones that left remarkable environmental and cultural destruction in their wake.

Trump administration policies forced people seeking asylum to wait in Mexico, infants to appear in immigration court, and separated family members into a sprawling incarceration apparatus whose companies had been making up to $126 per person per day for years. He could have done little of this without the constantly growing border-industrial complex that preceded him and, in important ways, made him.

Nonetheless, in the 2020 election campaign, the border industry pivoted toward Biden and the Democrats. That pivot ensured one thing: that its influence would be strong, if not preeminent, on such issues when the new administration took over.

The Biden years begin at the border

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

In early January 2021, Biden’s nominee to run DHS, Alejandro Mayorkas disclosed that, over the previous three years, he had earned $3.3 million from corporate clients with the WilmerHale law firm.

Two of those clients were Northrop Grumman and Leidos, companies that Nick Buxton and I identified as top border contractors in “Biden’s Border: The Industry, the Democrats and the 2020 Election,” a report we coauthored for the Transnational Institute.

When we started to look at the 2020 campaign contributions of 13 top border contractors for CBP and ICE, we had no idea what to expect. It was, after all, a corporate group that included producers of surveillance infrastructure for the high-tech “virtual wall” along the border like L3Harris, General Dynamics, and the Israeli company Elbit Systems; others like Palantir and IBM produced border data-processing software; and there were also detention companies like CoreCivic and GeoGroup.

To our surprise, these companies had given significantly more to the Biden campaign ($5,364,994) than to Trump ($1,730,435). In general, they had shifted to the Democrats who garnered 55% of their $40 million in campaign contributions, including donations to key members of the House and Senate Appropriations and Homeland Security committees.

It’s still too early to assess just what will happen to this country’s vast border-and-immigration apparatus under the Biden administration, which has made promises about reversing Trumpian border policies. Still, it will be no less caught in the web of the border-industrial complex than the preceding administration.

Perhaps a glimpse of the future border under Biden was offered when, on January 19, Homeland Security secretary nominee Mayorkas appeared for his Senate confirmation hearings and was asked about the 8,000 people from Honduras heading for the US in a “caravan” at that very moment.

The day before, US-trained troops and police in Guatemala had thwarted and then deported vast numbers of them as they tried to cross into that country. Many in the caravan reported that they were heading north thanks to back-to-back catastrophic category 4 hurricanes that had devastated the Honduran and Nicaraguan coasts in November 2020.

Guatemala immigrants migrants deportation
Guatemalan migrants in Guatemala City after their deportation from the US, April 30, 2020.

Mayorkas responded rather generically that if people were found to qualify “under the law to remain in the United States, then we will apply the law accordingly, if they do not qualify to remain in the United States, then they won’t.” Given that there is no climate-refugee status available to anyone crossing the border that meant most of those who finally made it (if they ever did) wouldn’t qualify to stay.

It’s possible that, by the time I went to see that wall with my son in late February, some people from that caravan had already made it to the border, despite endless obstacles in their path. As we drove down Highway 286, also known as the Sasabe Road, there were reports of undocumented people from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico all traveling through the rugged Baboquivari mountain range to the west of us and the grim canyons to the east of us in attempts to avoid the Border Patrol and its surveillance equipment.

When President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans against what he dubbed “the military-industrial complex” in 1961, he spoke of its “total influence – economic, political, even spiritual… felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the Federal government.”

Sixty years later, something similar could be said of the ever-expanding border-industrial complex. It needs just such climate disasters and just such caravans (or, as we’re seeing right now, just such “crises” of unaccompanied minors) to continue its never-ending growth, whether the president is touting a big, fat, beautiful wall or opting for high-tech border technology.

For my son and me, the enforcement apparatus first became noticeable at a checkpoint 25 miles north of the international boundary. Not only were green-uniformed agents interrogating passengers in any vehicle heading northward, but a host of cameras focused on the vehicles passing by.

Whether they were license-plate readers or facial-recognition cameras I had no way of knowing.

What I did know was that Northrop Grumman (which contributed $649,748 to Joe Biden and $323,014 to Donald Trump in the 2020 election campaign) had received a valuable contract to ensure that CBP’s biometric system included “modalities” of all sorts – face and voice data, iris recognition, scars and tattoos, possibly even DNA sample collection, and information about “relationship patterns” and “encounters” with the public.

And who could tell if the Predator B drones that General Atomics produces – oh, by the way, that company gave $82,974 to Biden and $51,665 to Trump in 2020 – were above us (as they regularly are in the border regions) using Northrup Grumman’s VADER “man-hunting” radar system first deployed in Afghanistan?

As we traveled through that gauntlet, Border Patrol vehicles were everywhere, reinforcing the surveillance apparatus that extends 100 miles into the US interior. We soon passed a surveillance tower at the side of the road first erected by the Boeing Corporation and renovated by Elbit Systems ($5,553 to Biden, $5,649 to Trump), one of dozens in the area.

On the other side of that highway was a gravel clearing where a G4S ($49,233 to Biden, $33,019 to Trump) van usually idles. It’s a mobile prison the Border Patrol uses to transport its prisoners to short-term detention centers in Tucson. And keep in mind that there was so much we couldn’t see like the thousands of implanted motion sensors manufactured by a host of other companies.

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Border fence construction on a mountain in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Lukeville, Arizona, January 7, 2020.

Traveling through this border area, it’s hard not to feel like you’re in a profitable version of a classic panopticon, a prison system in which, wherever you might be, you’re being watched. Even 5-year-old William was startled by such a world and, genuinely puzzled, asked me, “Why do the green men,” as he calls the Border Patrol, “want to stop the workers?”

By the time we got to that shard of Trump’s “big, fat, beautiful” wall, it seemed like just a modest part of a much larger system that left partisan politics in the dust. At its heart was never “The Donald” but a powerful cluster of companies with an active interest in working on that border until the end of time.

Just after the agent told us that we were in a construction zone and needed to leave, I noticed a pile of bollards near the dirt road that ran parallel to the wall. They were from the previous wall, the one Biden had voted for in 2006.

As William and I drove back to Tucson through that gauntlet of inspection, I wondered what the border-industrial world would look like when he was my age and living in what could be an even more extreme world filled with ever more terrified people fleeing disaster.

And I kept thinking of that discarded pile of bollards, a reminder of just how easy it would be to tear that wall and the world that goes with it down.

Todd Miller, a TomDispatch regular, has written on border and immigration issues for the New York Times, Al Jazeera America, and the NACLA Report on the Americas. His latest book is “Build Bridges, Not Walls: A Journey to a World Without Borders.” You can follow him on Twitter @memomiller and view more of his work at toddmillerwriter.com.

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Photos show the crowded conditions where migrant kids are being held at the US-Mexico border

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Inside the Texas Border Patrol facility

  • Photos, which Rep. Henry Cuellar shared, show crowded conditions in a Texas Border Patrol facility.
  • An estimated 13,500 migrant children were in government custody as of Thursday.
  • The Biden administration hasn’t let journalists independently visit the facilities.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The number of unaccompanied migrant children detained at the US-Mexico border has continued to rise throughout the first three months of 2021.

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

According to senior administration officials, US Customs and Border Protection 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.

The Biden administration has opened up various Border Patrol facilities to house these incoming migrants.

At one facility in Donna, Texas, pictured above, adults and children sit in what appears to be makeshift rooms separating out groups of people.

Each room is cordoned off by what looks like a plastic enclosure, drawing comparisons to jail cells. Journalists have so far been prohibited from viewing and entering the facilities. These photos, shared with Insider by Rep. Henry Cuellar, provide insight into the conditions.

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 appear to sit on the floor.

Nearly 3,000 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.

The situation at the border is quickly turning into a political firestorm, and is poised to generate more concern as people see the conditions inside the facilities.

migrant children border patrol facility us mexico border biden administration
A Border Patrol facility in Donna, Texas, housing migrant children on the weekend of March 20, 2021.

Key changes — such as measures to reverse controversial Trump-era policies — have led to thousands of migrants, and many unaccompanied children, to come to the US-Mexico border from Central America.

Republicans, including the former president, have taken the surge as an opportunity to bash the Biden administration.

Former President Donald Trump in a statement derided Biden’s newly instated immigration agenda.

He said the reversal of his own policies led to a rise in migration at the southern border.

Lawmakers fear that the surge will become a humanitarian crisis, as Border Patrol agents, for example, struggle to care or provide resources for incoming groups. The potential spread of the coronavirus among these groups of people only exacerbates that concern.

The Biden administration has implemented changes that aim to treat migrants fairly and humanely, in an attempt to overhaul Trump’s immigration policies.

migrant children border patrol facility us mexico border biden administration
A Border Patrol facility in Donna, Texas, housing migrant children on the weekend of March 20, 2021.

In a Monday press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki refrained from calling the surge a “crisis” at the border, saying the White House is working with different government agencies including HHS to “ensure we’re following COVID protocols.”

“Children presenting at our border who are fleeing violence, who are fleeing prosecution, who are fleeing terrible situations, is not a crisis,” she said. “We feel that it is our responsibility to humanely approach this circumstance and make sure they are treated and put into conditions that are safe.”

Psaki also insisted that the Biden administration wants to “make sure the media has access to these sites,” but did not give a concrete timeline on when that would happen.

“These photos show what we’ve long been saying, which is that these Border Patrol facilities are not places made for children,” she added. “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.”

The State Department is broadcasting to people in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil, and Mexico that now is not a good time to come to the US, but the administration still has to deal with all the migrant children who are currently here.

migrant children border patrol facility us mexico border biden administration
A Border Patrol facility in Donna, Texas, housing migrant children on the weekend of March 20, 2021.

Psaki also played up the strategies the Biden administration is doling out to cap the number of people traveling to the US, particularly from the Northern Triangle countries.

The State Department, for example, has created more than 17,100 ads since January 21 to discourage people from migrating. These ads have reached about 15 million people, Psaki said on Monday.

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.”

In anticipation of a surge in migrant traffic, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been ordered to facilitate a “government-wide effort” that would “safely receive, shelter, and transfer unaccompanied children who make the dangerous journey to the US southwest border.”

Biden has a number of solutions he could try to implement to deal with the thousands of migrant children coming to the US-Mexico border. Experts recommend against holding kids in jail-like settings.

migrant children border patrol facility us mexico border biden administration
A Border Patrol facility in Donna, Texas, housing migrant children on the weekend of March 20, 2021.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also said the surge is not equivalent to a crisis at the border and that the administration is strategizing potential ways to contain it.

That could take the form of opening more facilities near the southern border, for example.

Experts generally agree that this surge is not a crisis yet, but can turn into one.

To prevent a real crisis, experts told Insider’s Erin Snodgrass there are numerous steps the Biden administration could follow:

  1. Revoke Title 42, the Trump-era order that effectively halted all crossings at the border in the name of COVID-19 prevention.
  2. Increase federal funding and resources to both address the growing numbers of migrants and avoid the horrific conditions that often come with influxes.
  3. Avoid placing children in carceral settings or unlicensed facilities. They should instead be kept in child-appropriate settings with small group settings and a high staff-to-child ratio.

Insider’s Erin Snodgrass contributed to this report.

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Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says the ‘border is closed’ but the US ‘will not expel young, vulnerable children’

Alejandro Mayorkas
Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks speaks at a White House press briefing on March 1, 2021.

  • Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday said that “the border in closed.”
  • Mayorkas said that the US would not send back “vulnerable children” who have arrived at the border.
  • The wave of migrants presents a major challenge for President Joe Biden’s young administration.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday said “the border is closed” in response to the surge in migrants at the US-Mexico border, while staunchly defending the Biden administration’s policy of not expelling young arrivals.

During an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mayorkas said that while the US was sending back families and adults who have attempted to cross into the country, it would not follow the same practice for “young, vulnerable children.”

Mayorkas said the administration was seeking new policies to address the influx of migrants from Mexico and Central American countries. He also criticized former President Donald Trump for having “dismantled the orderly, humane and efficient way” of approaching cases with young children.

“We have a short-term plan, a medium-term plan, and a long-term plan, and the president and I have spoken to this repeatedly,” he said. “We will not expel into the Mexican desert, for example, three orphaned children whom I saw over the last two weeks. We just won’t do that. That’s not who we are.”

While the southern border has long been a source of illegal entry into the US, the wave of migrants presents a major challenge for President Joe Biden’s young administration.

Read more: Meet the presidential confidants, Delaware’s closely-knit and well-positioned congressional delegation, Joe Biden’s entrusted with cementing his legacy

US border authorities apprehended over 100,000 migrants in February, marking a month-to-month increase of 28% from January, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

Biden’s commitment to a humane approach to immigration has been criticized by congressional Republicans, and progressive lawmakers like Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York have complained about the administration reopening a notorious Trump-era Texas facility to house young migrants.

Mayorkas was also pressed about media access to border facilities, which he said the administration was “working on,” but emphasized that border authorities were “not focused on ride-alongs right now.”

“We are still in the midst of the pandemic,” he said. “Border Patrol agents are focused on operations, on securing the border, on addressing the needs of vulnerable children.”

He added: “We are focused on our operations, in removing children from those crowded Border Patrol stations to the Health and Human Services facilities that can best shelter them. And we are also working on providing access so the American public can in a safe way, without jeopardizing our operations, see what is going on.”

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Biden tells Central American migrants: ‘Don’t come over’

Customs and Border Protection
A US Customs and Border Protection agent stands guard on the US side of the US-Mexico border fence.

  • President Biden told people from Central America to stay in their “town or city or community.”
  • He said this in a televised interview after a marked increase in migrants at the US-Mexico border.
  • The Biden administration is also bracing for a surge in unaccompanied migrant children at the border.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Biden has told people from Central America not to come to the US after reports of a massive surge in migrants at the US-Mexico border.

“Yes, I can say quite clearly: Don’t come over… in the process of getting set up, don’t leave your town or city or community,” said Biden in a televised interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC News Tuesday night.

Biden said that there had been a “surge” in migrants in 2019 and 2020 as well, but acknowledged that this sudden increase in people heading to the border “could be worse.”

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

Biden campaigned on an immigration policy overhaul, with key changes that would make the US more welcoming and that he would treat migrants fairly and humanely.

But the president’s new comments come as his administration stares down the barrel of what could become a humanitarian crisis at the country’s southern border.

According to an article by NBC News, homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has acknowledged that US border patrol could be encountering more immigrants at the southern border.

This is because the US is on-pace to encounter more people at the U.S.-Mexico border “than we have in the last 20 years,” Mayjorkas said.

According to Axios, border patrol is struggling as it attempts to process and care for scores of families and children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador while coping as well with pandemic restrictions.

Many of these immigrants have undertaken a dangerous journey to the US-Mexico border in a bid to escape crises back home – including gang violence, severe poverty, and natural disasters.

The Biden administration is also bracing for a surge in unaccompanied migrant children crossing the border after the president overturned a Trump Covid-era policy of turning them away.

An AP report in February said that an overflow shelter would be re-opened in Carrizo Springs, Texas. An Axios report indicated a downtown Dallas convention center would be used to house around 3,000 migrant teens.

A Yahoo News article also noted that Biden had been briefed that 20,000 additional beds would be needed to shelter children who may arrive at the border this year.

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