White House denies ‘kids in cages’ hypocrisy charge as detention centers reopen

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One person’s “kids in cages” is another’s “reopening overflow facilities.” 

The Biden White House is being accused of hypocrisy for reopening border facilities to house migrant teenagers — including one that both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris savaged then-President Donald Trump about on the campaign trail and before.

Biden blasted Trump repeatedly for separating families and failing to reunite them, decrying during an October debate that migrant children were “ripped from their [parents’] arms and separated.”

Harris, then a senator, said in 2018 at the peak of the family separation controversy that Trump’s treatment of migrants was a “crime against humanity.”

But on Monday the Department of Health and Human Services reopened a facility in Texas to house up to 700 migrants ages 13 to 17. A second facility in Florida also is being reopened. The decision rankled immigration advocates and sparked allegations of hypocrisy given the previous BIden-Harris condemnation.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was pressed about the issue at her briefing Tuesday and danced around the issue, insisting it was a temporary measure for unaccompanied minors that is necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Briefing Held At White House By Press Secretary Psaki

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was pressed about the issue at her briefing Tuesday.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Vice President Harris Meets With Women Democratic Lawmakers And Advocacy Groups On Stimulus Package

Vice President Harris Meets With Women Democratic Lawmakers And Advocacy Groups On Stimulus Package

Kamala Harris, then a senator, said in 2018 that Trump’s treatment of migrants was a “crime against humanity.”

Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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“There needs to be spacing,” Psaki said. “To ensure the health and safety of these kids, HHS 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.

“So it’s a temporary reopening during COVID-19, our intention is very much to close it, but we want to make sure we can follow COVID protocols.”

She added, “Our goal is for them to then be transferred to families or sponsors. So, this is our effort to ensure that kids are not in close proximity and that we are abiding by the health and safety standards that the government has been set out.”

And Psaki rejected the notion that housing the kids at the 66-acre site was akin to holding “kids in cages.”

In addition to the detention center for children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, another center in Homestead, Fla., is being reopened.

Facility opens to welcome migrant children

Facility opens to welcome migrant children

Intensive care tents sit in a row at an Influx Care Facility (ICF) for unaccompanied children.

Sergio Flores/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Facility opens to welcome migrant children

Facility opens to welcome migrant children

A sign outside of an ICF for unaccompanied children explains what the facility is.

Sergio Flores/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Immigration Child Detention

Immigration Child Detention

Staff members attend an early morning meeting at the U.S. government’s newest holding center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas on July 9, 2019.

AP Photo/Eric Gay

Immigration Child Detention

Immigration Child Detention

Staff escort immigrants to class at the US government’s newest holding center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas on July 9, 2019.

AP Photo/Eric Gay, File

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Harris in 2019 sought to gain access to the Homestead facility as part of a protest with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), but was turned away because she didn’t have an appointment.

Fellow Democrat and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also protested the Homestead facility in 2019 when it housed 2,300 unaccompanied migrant children. He called the center a “prison camp” 

“You’ve got a bunch of kids being marched around. I’m looking at that and immediately I thought, that’s a prison camp,” de Blasio said.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) went so far as to describe Trump-era detention centers at the southern border as “concentration camps.”

Facility opens to welcome migrant children

Facility opens to welcome migrant children

Children will begin arriving Monday before being placed with a government approved sponsor.

Sergio Flores/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Facility opens to welcome migrant children

Facility opens to welcome migrant children

Chairs are set up 6 feet apart inside an intake building at a Influx Care Facility (ICF) for unaccompanied children.

Sergio Flores/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Facility opens to welcome migrant children

Facility opens to welcome migrant children

Cars sit parked outside the dining area at an ICF for unaccompanied children.

Sergio Flores/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Facility opens to welcome migrant children

Facility opens to welcome migrant children

Text books and notebooks line tables inside a classroom at an Influx Care Facility.

The Washington Post via Getty Images

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Immigration was a major campaign issue last year, with Biden and then-President Donald Trump swapping allegations of treating illegal immigrants and asylum seekers inhumanely.

“Who built the cages, Joe?” Trump repeatedly inquired at the final presidential debate, noting that he was criticized for a large warehouse detention center in McAllen, Texas, that opened in 2014 when Biden was vice president. That facility closed last year.

Biden has proposed legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the US and last week began to end Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers from Central America.

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