Border Crisis

Biden Admin Loses Court Challenge to Holding Migrant Children in Outdoor Camps

A U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of several human rights groups that filed a legal action against the Biden Administration in March. The groups alleged the Border Patrol was failing to properly care for migrant children staged at makeshift outdoor campsites along the U.S./Mexico border. Wednesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee will now force the Biden Administration to quickly provide suitable shelter and amenities for the migrant children in accordance with a previous court settlement.

In a 12-page ruling, Judge Gee acknowledged the migrant children are to be considered in Customs and Border Protection custody as they wait for days at times to be transported to suitable detention facilities. The delay is often caused by the sheer volume of migrant crossings under the Biden administration and the lack of adequate personnel and resources to deal with sudden migrant influxes.

Gee’s order requires DHS to expeditiously process all migrant children detained at outdoor campsites and rally points and to refrain from utilizing the camps for children except for the time reasonably necessary to arrange the transfer of the migrant child to a more suitable facility. The order requires Customs and Border Protection personnel to maintain records regarding the use of outdoor camps to hold migrant children. Those records would include time of detention and other statistics. Gee has ordered an interim report to be filed with the court by May 10, 2024.

Neha Desai, Senior Director of Immigration at the National Center for Youth Law, one of the groups bringing the legal action against the Biden Administration, applauded the decision in a press release. The director stated, “This is a tremendous victory for children at open air detention sites, but it remains a tragedy that a court had to direct the government to do what basic human decency and the law clearly require. We expect CBP to comply with the court’s order swiftly, and we remain committed to holding CBP accountable for meeting the most rudimentary needs of children in their legal custody, including food, shelter, and basic medical care.”

As reported by Breitbart Texas, the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL), Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), and Children’s Rights had asked the judge to order the Department of Homeland Security to cease detaining migrant children in open air detention sites (OAD) and, among other actions, to document the circumstances of any detention of migrant children in OAD’s that exceed two hours from the first encounter with the agency. Wednesday’s ruling granted both requests.

In their court filing, the groups cited the terms of a 1993 Supreme Court case, Reno v. Flores, regarding the treatment of unaccompanied migrant children while in immigration detention. The case stemmed from the 1985 detention of an El Salvadoran unaccompanied migrant child, Jenny Lissette Flores, by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The motion to enforce filed in March by the groups described conditions in Jacumba and San Ysidro, California, where migrant children are led by CBP personnel to outdoor processing sites to await transportation. The detention times in those outdoor encampments ranged from hours to days, according to the filing. The groups asserted the open-air sites lack adequate hygiene facilities, medical staff, food, or shelter and do not provide adequate security for the migrant children.

As reported by Breitbart Texas, in Lukeville, Arizona, migrants camp for days along the border wall in the Organ Pipe National Monument reserve. In Eagle Pass, Texas, more than 1,000 migrants were routinely held outdoors in December as they awaited detention space to become available at a nearby soft-sided processing facility. In 2021, nearly 30,000 mostly Haitian migrants crossed into Del Rio, Texas. The daily crossings quickly overwhelmed the Border Patrol and caused thousands of migrants to remain in an open-air detention site for weeks. The migrants constructed shelters from tarps, tents, and cardboard to shelter from the weather along the bank of the Rio Grande.

According to CBP, in FY 2020, 30,557 unaccompanied migrant children were encountered at the southwest border. In FY 2021, under the Biden administration, that number climbed to nearly 145,000, an increase of almost 400 percent. Between 2021, the year Joe Biden became president, and January 2024, 468,396 unaccompanied migrant children have been apprehended by the Border Patrol, according to CBP reports. The class members in the latest court ruling also include migrant children who are accompanied by family members.

Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol.  Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.

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