American Republicans are seizing an increase in the number of children trying to enter the United States through the southwestern border with Mexico to attack the Biden administration as a new crisis unfolds at U.S. border facilities.
Representative Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the US House of Representatives, led a delegation of Republican members of Congress to the US border with Mexico on Monday.
“The security of our nation and our border is first and foremost the responsibility of our president,” McCarthy said at a press conference near El Paso, Texas, noting an increase in border crossings since the election of the President Joe Biden.
“This crisis is created by the presidential policy of this new administration. There’s no other way to claim it, than a Biden border crisis, ”McCarthy said.
“It’s more than a crisis. It’s human grief, ”he said.
The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) released statistics last week showing officers intercepted more than 100,000 people trying to cross the southwestern border into the United States in February, a 28% increase from January. Many are children and families seeking entry into the United States.
More than 3,600 children are held in border detention centers.
The Associated Press reported on Friday that hundreds of children and teens had been crammed into a border patrol tent in Texas. Lawyers who monitor the detention centers told the news agency that some were sleeping on the floor while others were unable to shower for five days.
The AP reported Monday that U.S. federal agencies are considering transferring up to 3,000 teens to a convention center in Dallas amid the outbreak.
CBP said the increase in the number of migrants seeking entry into the United States, particularly unaccompanied children, began in April 2020 as a result of gang violence, natural disasters, hunger and poverty Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
While many adults apprehended attempting to cross the border without papers are being deported, US law requires unaccompanied children to be taken into care and placed in temporary homes.
Biden administration during the weekend called Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help build shelters to accommodate them.
“It’s a complicated problem, without a doubt,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday, urged by reporters on the challenge the Biden administration faces at the border.
“We are clearly sending the message to the region: ‘Now is not the time to come’. But also, we want to make sure that people are treated humanely, who are children, who are unaccompanied children. This is who we are as a country and therefore we do both, ”Psaki said.
Rebecca Hamlin, professor of law and politics at the University of Massachusetts and author of an upcoming book on migration policies, said the Republican complaints appeared “bluntly partisan” and designed to motivate the “Republican base.”
The previous Trump administration, by forcing all who seek asylum in the United States to stay in mexico“Has created one of the most dangerous, shoddy, unsanitary and overcrowded refugee camps in the world,” Hamlin told Al Jazeera.
“What we have done is keep the border crisis on the other side of the border,” she said.
The only way to really fix this now, Hamlin said, is to invest more resources in dealing with people crossing the border, and the Biden administration has yet to ask Congress for the funding that would be needed.
“It’s a tough political situation for them,” said Michael Jones-Correa, professor at the Center for the Study of Ethnicity, Race and Immigration at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Given the history of caged children during the Trump administration, the Biden administration clearly doesn’t want to repeat this, ”Jones-Correa told Al Jazeera.
“This is not the political situation that the Biden administration wanted to find itself in,” he said.