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Rep. Joaquin Castro led a Congressional delegation to the Carrizo Springs Office of Refugee Resettlement facility for unaccompanied children in Texas. Photo: Twitter
Rep. Joaquin Castro led a Congressional delegation to the Carrizo Springs Office of Refugee Resettlement facility for unaccompanied children in Texas. Photo: Twitter

Reps. Joaquin Castro, Ilhan Omar, and more on ‘finding solutions’ for unaccompanied children

Castro was joined by Reps. Pete Aguilar (CA-31), Ilhan Omar (MN-5), Barbara Lee (CA-20), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Jennifer T. Wexton (VA-10), and Rashida Tlaib …

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The Biden administration is dealing with how to swiftly process and house unaccompanied children and teens crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Most minors offer a simple reason for coming — to reunite with a parent or sponsor who has already previously migrated here.

The rise in numbers of child migrants has stretched the ability to safely detain and shelter them, and there are reports of subpar and overcrowded conditions at CPB facilities. It has quickly become a humanitarian crisis.

On Friday, March 26, Rep. Joaquin Castro led a congressional delegation to the Carrizo Springs Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) facility for unaccompanied children at the border, to ensure humane treatment and orderly process for children to be reunited with families while their asylum cases are reviewed.

The ORR facility is capable of housing approximately 1,000 unaccompanied children. 

Castro was joined by Reps. Pete Aguilar (CA-31), Ilhan Omar (MN-5), Barbara Lee (CA-20), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Jennifer T. Wexton (VA-10), and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13). 

The seven representatives toured the ORR facility, spoke to children, and presented a press briefing afterwards. 

Rep. Castro noted the uptick in discussion and controversy over the conditions at the border. 

Apprehensions were drastically lower in 2020, but it can be considered an anomaly because of Title 42, implemented near the start of the Covid-19 crisis in the U.S.,which allowed for rapid expulsion of unauthorized border crossers and asylum seekers. 

Migrants were not afforded the right to make a case before an immigration judge to stay in the U.S., and most that were subject to Title 42 measures were quickly returned to Mexico. 

In November 2020, a federal court ordered a halt to the practice, and on Jan. 29, 2021, the stay was lifted by D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, allowing minors to be expelled pending its review of the case. The Biden administration has decided against the practice, but it continues to send back adults and families

The total number of apprehensions this year, while increasing, is actually lower than in 2019, and when put in the proper context, is a continuation from 2019. This isn’t new, and has been an ongoing trend since 2014.

“We need to be clear about something,” Castro began. “President Biden inherited a situation where the previous administration had sought to dismantle the infrastructure for processing asylum seekers and settling asylum seekers in the United States. It was an administration that was run in many ways on these issues by Stephen Miller.”

He went on to reference the handling of immigration during the pandemic. With Title 42, the Trump administration was able to expel everyone that came and sought asylum. 

“Which people are allowed to do around the world, not just presenting at the United States Border, but at any border around the world consistent with international law,” Castro continued. 

He stressed that unaccompanied minors are not being expelled, but the problem is conditions in which they are held. As witnessed with recently released CBP pictures, these facilities are often subject to inhumane conditions

“Those are awful conditions, that even these facilities, that have better conditions than the CBP processing centers, are not the places for kids. That kids should move quickly along to their family sponsors,” Castro continued. “And so we’re here today to find solutions.”

The congressmember noted that there will be additional processing facilities for unaccompanied migrants in San Antonio Texas, the Dallas Convention Center and one in San Diego, California, with the possibility for more. Still, he indicated the ultimate goal is for as short a stay as possible at these facilities, so that the children can be reunited with their families or sponsors. 

Rep. Omar was once a child refugee herself. She said that the experience of touring the facility took her back to her experience fleeing to the United States at eight years old. 

“You’ll hear people say, couldn't the president just tell them not to come? Couldn't we have messaging and signals sent from an administration from leaders to tell these families to be responsible and to not put their kids through the horrendous journeys that they’re putting their children through?” she said. 

“And what I want to remind people is that when my father was making a decision for me at the age of 8, to flee conflict, he was making a decision for me to live,” Omar continued. 

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