A bipartisan group of senators is calling for the Biden administration to open up press access at the United States border after viewing several child migrant detention facilities that one Senator said he would not “want your child in for more than 10 minutes.”
The visit follows reports that the number of child migrants being held at the border is more than 300 times that originally reported, and that around 13,000 unaccompanied minors are currently in United States custody, overwhelming border patrol facilities and turning the situation at the United-States-Mexico border into a humanitarian crisis.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), and two others accompanied Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to tour an at-capacity facility housing child migrants over the weekend and found children cramped shoulder to shoulder in large rooms for far longer than the law allows.
Capito, “one of four senators who accompanied Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the border, said in an interview with The Washington Post Saturday that as many as 100 migrant children were being held in a large room at one Customs and Border Protection processing center in El Paso amid the coronavirus pandemic,” the outlet noted.
“More than 200 border agents have been diverted to this CBP facility to care for the children, Capito said. The children, who arrived at the southern border without a parent, are legally allowed to be held for only 72 hours in CBP custody before being transferred elsewhere. But many are there for days longer than that,” Capito told The Washington Post.
Murphy, a Democrat, was also stunned at the conditions he found at the border but was careful to continue to differentiate the situation under President Joe Biden from that under President Donald Trump, telling The Washington Post that these are “not kids in so-called cages.”
He said, however, that the conditions on the border are conditions you would not “want your child in for more than 10 minutes.”
“You’re sleeping on thin mattresses on the floor. They are sort of bunched, you know, about six inches to a foot from each other,” Murphy told media. “We’ve got to ultimately do better.”
Both Capito and Murphy encouraged the Biden administration to allow press access to border detention facilities and to lift unofficial “gag orders” keeping media from reporting accurately on conditions in the border detention facilities.
Last week, news broke that the Biden administration has all but prevented border officials from speaking to the press amid the immigration crisis.
“Border Patrol officials have been told to deny all media requests for ‘ride-alongs’ with agents along the southern land border; local press officers are instructed to send all information queries, even from local media, to the press office in Washington for approval; and those responsible for cultivating data about the number of migrants in custody have been reminded not to share the information with anyone to prevent leaks, the officials said,” per NBC News, which identified itself as one of the press agencies requesting access.
“I pleaded with [Mayorkas] to have as much transparency with us . . . but with the press as well,” Capito said of her discussions with the DHS secretary.
Murphy, begrudgingly, agreed, saying he would press for “some additional press access.” “We want to make sure that the press has access to hold the administration accountable.”