You Know What Else Trump Administration F**ked Up? Kids At Border, That's What
It turns out that the COVID-19 pandemic, the rickety vaccine roll-out, and the recession weren't the only problems Donald Trump ignored while trying to overturn democracy following the 2020 election. NBC News reports that the Biden transition team alerted Trump administration officials to a rise in unaccompanied minors crossing the border back in early December, calling on them to prepare to house the incoming teenagers, but the Trump team just sat around with their thumbs up their asses until a few days before Biden was inaugurated. That's according to "two Biden transition officials and a U.S. official with knowledge of the discussions." NBC News 'splains,
The Biden transition team made its concerns about the lack of shelter space known to Trump officials both at the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security, laying out the need to open an influx shelter in Carrizo Springs, Texas, and to issue what's known as a "request for assistance" that would start the process of surveying new sites for expanded shelters, according to the transition officials.
As we've noted and as Joe Biden pointed out at his press conference Thursday, arrivals of migrants at the border tend to be a seasonal thing, regardless of who's in office. Now we know the Trump team knew there were a lot of unaccompanied minors coming, but didn't do much of anything to prepare for them. After all, by the time the numbers really started growing, it would be Joe Biden's problem, and even better, it could be spun as a "crisis" he'd caused.
One of the former transition officials said, "They were sitting on their hands. [...] It was incredibly frustrating." Why yes, we bet it was!
The problem was made worse by the coronavirus pandemic, which meant that HHS's system of shelters was only able to house half its normal capacity under social distancing rules. That's part of the reason HHS hasn't been able to quickly move kids from crowded Border Patrol intake stations to its own facilities. Biden said at his presser yesterday the administration is doing all it can to get minors out of those overcrowded border stations, which Biden called "totally unacceptable."
After the Biden transition team told Trump officials about the growing numbers of unaccompanied kids in "multiple meetings, multiple times a week" starting in December, Trump's HHS Secretary Alex Azar finally did something. On January 15, Azar issued that "request for assistance" so the search for places to house incoming minors could start. Even so, the Carrizo Springs HHS facility didn't open until the Biden administration did it in February; other sites at military bases and convention centers are only now starting to be opened, including the expansion of capacity by another 500 beds at Carrizo Springs.
"In a transition team, you don't have hold of the buttons of power. You can advise, you can strongly direct, you can strongly recommend, but at the end of the day, the outgoing administration was responsible for action and they just didn't take it. They gave no reason," the Biden transition official said.
Maybe we should put up some kind of monument to the four years of the Trump administration, with "IT DIDN'T HAVE TO BE THIS BAD" carved in granite.
NBC News also quotes an unnamed "senior Trump administration HHS official" who said that at the time Trump slunk off to Florida on January 20, "we were confident we had enough beds to handle any pre-existing surge from the last 20 years." After all, didn't HHS have thousands of empty beds in its existing HHS shelters, where the total capacity was 13,000 beds? Bit of a problem with that confidence, though, since only half the capacity on paper was really available due to the pandemic safety rules.
Warnings about the shortage of shelter space weren't only coming from the Biden transition, though; another official who "served under both the Trump and the Biden administrations" told NBC News that career HHS staff warned about the lack of space.
The official said it was "irresponsible of the Trump administration not to listen to us when we were throwing up red flags."
"The writing was on the wall," the U.S. official said. "It was not at this level yet, but if the number of beds needed was going up, what do we do?"
Haha, as if the Trump people would ever listen to their enemies in the incoming administration or the Deep State! Experts are bad.
There was one other factor at play, of course, which is that under the guise of the pandemic, Trump's DHS was simply not admitting anyone claiming asylum at all. It used a public health ruling from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to deport all asylum seekers, including minors. Yes, even after the administration was told to knock that the fuck off:
Shortly after the election, on Nov. 18, a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration could no longer expel children under that CDC authority, leading the numbers of children entering the U.S. to begin climbing. That injunction was later lifted, but the Biden administration made the decision to allow unaccompanied migrant children fleeing violence to enter the U.S. to pursue asylum.
We should also note that Biden has not yet lifted that health rule, known as "Article 42," for any but unaccompanied minors, and is still using it to expel adults and families. That's not good!
The ACLU, which sued the Trump administration over the practice, saying it violated asylum seekers' due process rights, is continuing the lawsuit against the Biden administration. Some "open border," huh? But there again, the actions of the Trump administration have added to the problem: To get back to the rule of law, the Biden administration has to undo the mess that Trump and his team of fascists created. And as soon as we go back to a constitutional immigration process, the Right will again scream about Biden's having caused a "crisis."
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