Children still being held in cages on the southern border

It appears that the appalling conditions under which migrant children were held during the Trump administration are still continuing under the Biden administration.

Hundreds of immigrant children and teenagers have been detained at a Border Patrol tent facility in packed conditions, with some sleeping on the floor because there aren’t enough mats, according to nonprofit lawyers who conduct oversight of immigrant detention centers.

The lawyers interviewed more than a dozen children Thursday in Donna, Texas, where the Border Patrol is holding more than 1,000 people. Some of the youths told the lawyers they had been at the facility for a week or longer, despite the agency’s three-day limit for detaining children. Many said they haven’t been allowed to phone their parents or other relatives who may be wondering where they are.

Despite concerns about the coronavirus, the children are kept so closely together that they can touch the person next to them, the lawyers said. Some have to wait five days or more to shower, and there isn’t always soap available, just shampoo, according to the lawyers.

President Joe Biden’s administration denied the lawyers access to the tent facility. During the administration of former President Donald Trump, attorney visits to Border Patrol stations revealed severe problems, including dozens of children held at one rural station without adequate food, water, or soap.

“It is pretty surprising that the administration talks about the importance of transparency and then won’t let the attorneys for children set eyes on where they’re staying,” said Leecia Welch of the National Center for Youth Law, one of the lawyers. “I find that very disappointing.”

‘Disappointing’ is a massive understatement. This is a scandal.

Yesterday, the Biden administration announced that it was sending FEMA “to go to the southern border and help care for increasing numbers of unaccompanied child migrants arriving there.”

What’s happening: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had directed FEMA to “support a government-wide effort over the next 90 days to safely receive, shelter, and transfer unaccompanied children who make the dangerous journey to the U.S. southwest border.”

What they’re saying: Mayorkas said in a statement anyone apprehended at the border would continue to be denied entry and are returned to “effectively protect both the health and safety of migrants and our communities from the spread” of COVID-19.

  • “A Border Patrol facility is no place for a child,” Mayorkas said. “We are working in partnership with HHS 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.
  • “Our goal is to ensure that unaccompanied children are transferred to HHS as quickly as possible, consistent with legal requirements and in the best interest of the children.”

Let’s hope that they act quickly to improve these appalling conditions.


  1. brucegee1962 says

    It was very clear that this was likely to happen. Conditions have been deteriorating for some time in Central America, and the flood of migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, began under Obama. Trump shut off the migration for a bit through a combination of bullying Mexico, deportations, and cruelty, but now it will redouble. And this isn’t even counting the millions who will be displaced in the future due to climate change causing crop failures throughout equatorial regions.
    Of course we need to improve our processing and housing for these people and find space for as many as possible within our society. But the only way to genuinely address the problem will be through a costly effort to shore up the countries these people are fleeing, and help them rebuild their own social safety nets.

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    This is what you pseudoprogressives get for voting for Biden! I told you so!

    (channelling our own self-styled Cassandra, mnb0).

  3. says

    I keep waiting for all those liberty-loving anti-government gun toting would-be minutemen to stand up to this clear government oppression and start shooting ICE agents.

    What do you mean “wrong side?”

  4. mnb0 says

    Indeed, Rob G. Meet the new boss -- the same as the old boss. A few Brits already understood half a century ago.
    Kudos for neglecting the real question. What are you going to do about it?
    Nothing, I suppose, given your attitude since the last presidential elections. Except whining that it’s sooooo important to keep next Republican president out of the White house in 2024. Just like you did a few months ago.

  5. Mano Singham says


    I notice that while you are quick to criticize the choices and actions of others, you never actually say what you would do.

    Given the choice in 2020, who would you have voted for if you were a US citizen? Or would you have not voted at all?

    Do you think there is no difference at all between having Trump still be president and having Biden instead?

  6. Rob Grigjanis says

    Mano @5: First, mnb0 never answers such questions. I’d be happy if he proved me wrong in this case.

    Secondly, my impression is that he thinks that things must get much worse in the US before they can get better. Hence his attacks on those who simply wanted Trump out, even if it meant the election of a centrist (or right-centrist in European terms) like Biden.

    In effect, mnb0 thinks the suffering or death of millions is an acceptable cost for a hypothetical better future. I suspect that’s why he doesn’t answer questions. But again, I’d be glad to be corrected.

  7. Mano Singham says

    Rob @#6,

    I think that hoping for (and even working towards) things to get worse even in the short run is a luxury that only people who think they would not be personally affected can advocate. To privilege one’s own ideological purity over everything else and ignore the very real suffering of many people seems so callous.

    I notice that you seem to really have his number!

  8. Holms says

    Indeed, Rob G. Meet the new boss — the same as the old boss.

    Ridiculous, half-baked statement. The OP contains a massive difference between Biden and Trump in plain text: Biden is sending FEMA to assist. Oh and he also cancelled the family separation policy Trump enacted. And of course there are the many differences on other issues: Seen the covid numbers lately?

    Other than that it was a really good take… (that was a lie btw).

  9. Sam N says

    Count me among readers hoping mnbo would actually respond with a statement about what the behavior of those of us who are Americans *should* be. He neglected my question a few weeks ago, but mine was made somewhat derogatorily whereas Mano is quite good at being dispassionate and avoiding any drama.

    Seriously mnbo, if you have genuine solutions to offer us individual US citizens, I’d love to hear them.

    If you don’t have any, I’d accept an apology for harsh judgment of those of us who live under incompetent governance, surrounded by many, many downright moronic, if not evil, fellow citizens.

    Otherwise, I will view your comments, deservedly so, as trash.

  10. mnb0 says

    @MS: “mnb0,

    I notice that while you are quick to criticize the choices and actions of others, you never actually say what you would do.

    Given the choice in 2020, who would you have voted for if you were a US citizen? Or would you have not voted at all?

    Do you think there is no difference at all between having Trump still be president and having Biden instead?”

    For personal reasons I lose interest in internet discussions very quickly, so I had not read your questions before. Here I go.

    I would probably not have voted at all. Me being a US citizen might have influenced this decision. I would have voted for Bernie Sanders though in the preliminaries (or whatever they’re called).
    I don’t see much difference.and nothing essential. I’d love to be proven wrong here, though. Thus far neither you nor PZ has pointed out any, rather the contrary. I have actively looked for something; the best I can think of is canceling that Alaskan pipeline. That’s something, but not nearly enough.
    What above all bugs me is that before the elections Biden supporters here and at PZ’s blog argued “vote Donald the Clown out of the White House now, fight for political reform later” -- and now they’ve got their way they remain silent. I consider that a form of betrayal.
    That said, as RobG already implied, before the elections I predicted this.
    Now what I actively would have done myself were I living in the USA (now as a non-citizen), probably the same as in the interior of Suriname since 2000 CE: teaching math and physics to kids who otherwise wouldn’t have received a decent education. That’s what I do best. Were I a US citizen I probably would have been political active on a local level. That’s what I did when I lived in my native country.

    “you never actually say what you would do”
    This is partially correct -- I have pointed out what I wrote above several times, though possibly not often and/or not everything on your blog. I realize that that’s not very constructive; however me having never set foot in the USA I’m a bit reluctant in this respect. If you call me out on this I’ll happily admit.
    As for my credentials, I’m sure there are not that many commenters at Freethought who are willing to earn a salary varying from 300 to 700 USD to pursue their ideals. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing when I applied for my job at my school in Suriname.
    This is a former colleague:

    I’d like to point out that these biographical information has zero impact on the question if I should have voted for Biden or not. My only point is that not I’m not an armchair critic.

  11. Mano Singham says


    The question I asked was whether you thought “there is no difference at all between having Trump still be president and having Biden instead”. Your response is that you think there is no ‘essential’ or ‘much’ difference between the two. The addition of those two words provides a gap that one can drive a truck through.

    I suspect that few of the commenters here think that Biden is a progressive who will dismantle the neoliberal stranglehold and end wars. We are not that naive. But there are differences between what Biden has already done from what Trump did. The $1.9 trillion rescue plan (see the details here) will immediately help a large number of people who are really struggling to survive and that Trump did nothing for.

    Here are just a few items.

    The child tax credit alone is expected to cut the rate of child poverty by half.

    The policies would reduce poverty by more than half for children and for people in households experiencing job loss. Poverty would fall about 42 percent for Black, non-Hispanic people, 39 percent for Hispanic people, and 34 percent for white, non-Hispanic people, reducing the disparities in poverty rates for Black, non-Hispanic people and Hispanic people relative to white, non-Hispanic people.

    Trump would not have done this. Is that nothing to you?

    The package will help millions of people who are struggling to pay rent and risked becoming homeless. These people needed this to tide them over until the economy recovers and they get their jobs back.

    Trump would not have done this. Is that nothing to you?

    Biden has also issued an executive order on upholding the protections of LGBTQ rights that Trump ignored, especially the discrimination against trans people.

    What yesterday’s order does mean, though, is that this administration is prepared to vigorously defend and enforce the legal protections that LGBTQ people enjoy under federal law. Every state considering anti-trans bills barring trans people from sports must now consider that they will face a U.S. government that is not facilitating anti-trans discrimination but actually enforcing Title IX’s protections to stop it. Every employer, every landlord, every health care provider that is considering firing or evicting or denying health care to a transgender person must now think about the fact that all three branches of the federal government have made clear that anti-LGBTQ discrimination is illegal.

    Is that nothing to you?

    Neither I nor (I suspect) most of the commenters here expect Biden to dismantle the military-industrial-finacial complex that runs the US. But to dismiss the chance to ease the very real suffering of very real people right now because it does not lead to systemic change is to commit to a level of ideological purity that I for one would find it hard to live with.

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