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What’s going on at the border? Here’s everything we know right now

Around 14,000 unaccompanied immigrant children are being processed by the Biden administration along America’s southern border

Migrants are seen in a green area outside of a soft-sided detention center after they were taken into custody while trying to sneak into the U.S., Friday, March 19, 2021, in Donna, Texas. A surge of migrants on the Southwest border has the Biden administration on the defensive
Migrants are seen in a green area outside of a soft-sided detention center after they were taken into custody while trying to sneak into the U.S., Friday, March 19, 2021, in Donna, Texas. A surge of migrants on the southwest border has the Biden administration on the defensive.
Julio Cortez, Associated Press

President Joe Biden insists there is not a “crisis” at America’s southern border, while not letting journalists see inside federal immigration facilities in Texas.

Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of Homeland Security, and a bipartisan group of U.S. senators are visiting El Paso, Texas, Friday to “to view Customs and Border Protection operations and to receive a briefing on how unaccompanied minors are being processed, transferred and sheltered,” The Hill reported. The politicians’ border visit was “closed to press” for “privacy and COVID-19 precautions” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement, The Hill reported.

The Biden administration has been accused of being less than transparent about what is happening along the nation’s southern border, according to Fox News.

NBC News reported earlier this week that the administration was denying media “ride-alongs” with Border Patrol agents and that there had been a restriction of information that the agency could share with the press.

The White House has been careful to not refer to the surge of migrants as a “crisis” — although press secretary Jen Psaki called it just that on Thursday — as the federal government is currently processing around 14,000 unaccompanied minors, ABC News reported.

“Central America has recently been battered by hurricanes and slumping economies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has spurred more migration,” Reuters reported. “Biden officials and migrant advocates, however, acknowledge that the current increase is at least partly due to a recent policy change that now allows unaccompanied children into the country,” according to Reuters.

Trying to keep kids safe

In a press conference this week, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked the federal government to allow a state law enforcement agency to enter federal facilities where migrant children are being kept to “talk to these unaccompanied minors” to “get to the bottom of the human trafficking and put an end to it,” Fox News reported

In response, the Biden administration said it is careful not to reexpose children to trauma, according to The Dallas Morning News.

“They have faced persecution,” said a Biden administration official on a media call, reported The Dallas Morning News. “They have had to flee for their own safety. And so we are very protective ... of making sure that children are not retraumatized by having to recount things they have faced to every public office who wishes to speak to them.”

Administration officials also shared the following data on child custody and placement, The Dallas Morning News reported:

  • Around 4,500 children are in custody with Border Patrol.
  • Health and Human Services is caring for around 9,500 children.
  • About 90% have family in the U.S.
  • It takes an average of 34 days to reunited children with family.

New and old policies

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed two pieces of legislation addressing immigration.

The American Dream and Promise Act which provides a path for upwards of 3 million “Dreamers” — and other immigrants — to citizenship received more bipartisan support on Thursday than it had two years ago, the National Review reported. Nine Republicans joined the caucus of House Democrats to pass the bill 228-197, with five Republicans not voting. Each of Utah’s four Republican congressmen voted against the bill.

“Millions in this country live in fear, holding their breaths every day, that they could be deported to faraway lands that are not their homes,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Thursday, NPR reported. “Because America is their home. For Dreamers, it has been their home since their earliest days. And today, this House is going to take action — as we did last Congress — to help them breathe easier.”

Republicans who opposed the bill contested that it would worsen the problem at the border.

“When you have a crisis at the border, the last thing you should do is make it worse,” said Republican House Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, according to the National Review. “That’s what this bill does.”

But, a second immigration bill found even more bipartisan support in the House.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act creates a system for America’s immigrant agricultural workers “to earn temporary status with an eventual option to become a permanent resident,” NPR reported. “The bill would help an additional 1 million immigrant agriculture workers, their spouses and minor children remain in the country legally,” the National Review reported.

Thirty Republicans voted with all but one Democrat to pass the bill 247-174. Utah’s four congressmen voted against the legislation and eight members of the GOP were marked “not voting.”