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President Joe Biden said a Texas migrant shelter for children won't stay open for very long, as criticism mounts from both sides of the aisle that the Biden administration is not treating migrant children any better than the Trump administration did.
Members of both parties slammed the Biden administration for hypocrisy after it emerged that a Trump-era migrant facility for children aged 13 to 17 in Carrizo Springs, Texas was recently reopened to house unaccompanied minors crossing the border.
Speaking to Univision on Friday, Mr Biden said: “Our hope and expectation is that won’t stay open very long, that we’ll be able to provide for every kid who comes across the border safely to be housed in a facility that’s licensed."
He said that the facility was reopened because "thousands" of children are crossing the border alone, adding that his administration has been able to place a “significant number” of the migrant children in facilities around the United States.
The New York Times reported that the Border Patrol intercepted more than 2,000 unaccompanied children last week.
Mr Biden emphasised the work that his administration is doing to reconnect the incoming children with families and relatives that they travelled to the United States to find.
He told Univision that the government is working to “get them to the families that they came here to see or they’re looking for. And we’ve already connected thousands of them ... so that’s our hope, is to unite these children with families while they wait to have a hearing".
The White House has said that reopening the Texas facility was a temporary measure to keep migrant children safe during the Covid-19 pandemic.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told The View on Thursday: “In the time of Covid, that means we needed to open an additional facility so that we could have educational services so that we could have legal services, so that we could have medical and health services and have those kids there, treated humanly, until we can find proper homes, family placements for these kids."
She insisted that the move was not in line with the policies of the Trump administration and that it was the best decision to keep the children safe during this time.
New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her disapproval of the move on 23 February. She wrote: "This is not okay, never has been okay, never will be okay – no matter the administration or party."
She added: "It’s only two months into this admin and our fraught, unjust immigration system will not transform in that time. That’s why bold reimagination is so important. DHS shouldn’t exist, agencies should be reorganised, ICE gotta go, ban for-profit detention, create climate refugee status and more."
During a briefing Tuesday, Ms Psaki said: “To ensure the health and safety of these kids, [the Department of Health and Human Services] took steps to open an emergency facility to add capacity where these kids can be provided the care they need before they are safely placed with families and sponsors."
Republicans like Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott slammed the Biden administration for being hypocritical with Mr Rubio tweeting on 23 February: "Anyone want to post odds on the media dedicating weeks of non-stop coverage about how Biden is locking up children in cages?"
The Associated Press said this comparison lacks context, pointing out that while the Biden administration is reopening a facility first opened under Mr Trump, it was a different facility run by the Border Patrol which spurred so much vitriol in 2018 when it was blasted for putting "kids in cages" because the administration back then held children "in cells partitioned with chain-link fencing after separating them from their parents. That family separation policy is no longer in effect".