Biden’s Migrant Facilities: Same Cruelty, Different Administration?


Abigail Felan

As Biden reopens immigrant facilities in Texas and Florida, many ethical questions are raised regarding his campaign promises.

Lucia Chico, Staff Writer

With just over a month in office, President Biden has already had to be held accountable for his immigration-related decisions that differ from his campaign trail promises. Recently, he ordered the reopening of one migrant detention facility and is planning to reopen a second one. In Carrizo Springs, Texas, Biden ordered the reopening of the migrant shelter for children, which was only open for a month under the Trump Administration in 2019. In our own state of Florida, the Biden Administration is planning to reopen the Homestead Detention Center to house children temporarily.

The administration claims that these facilities will be safe places for unaccompanied migrant children to stay while immigration workers find them a home. Having seen the inhumane treatment towards migrants under the previous administration, controversy over the reopening of these facilities has stirred among Americans, as they still cannot trust the immigration system.

Under the Biden Administration, these reopened facilities are solely for emergency purposes. The existing migrant children facilities have reached capacity, due to a recent influx in migrants at the U.S. Mexico border. To complicate the situation even more, in order to abide by COVID-19 guidelines of social-distancing, up to half of the beds in these migrant holding centers cannot be used. The reopening of new facilities is simply because the administration is struggling to keep all migrants safe.

Many Biden supporters were disappointed in this call to action, as he had promised to take a different approach to immigration policy than the previous Trump Administration. Biden has partially kept this promise by reversing Trump’s deportation policy for unaccompanied migrant children. This policy, in combination with a bill introduced by House Democrats, will set illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship, meaning more children than before need to be held in migrant detention centers. Under the Trump Administration, similar practices were used, only migrants were not guaranteed a path to documentation and the conditions of holding centers concerned the general public.

Migrant detention centers have a negative connotation in almost everyone’s mind and rightfully so. Under the previous Trump administration, detention centers were under the control of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Scandals of widespread mistreatment of undocumented immigrants are one of the many things that Trump’s presidency is remembered by. Some of the scandals included the hysterectomies performed on migrant women without their consent and the ruthless family separation policies. The controversy that has stirred over the reopening of the two aforementioned centers, is in part because of what we always end up seeing at these facilities—separation of families and unlivable conditions in the hands of ICE.

This reminds me of the detention centers in Homestead that held children that were separated from families back in 2019. If the conditions remain the same, then the Biden administration is nothing we hoped it would become,

— sophomore Isabella Miguelez

Democrats and Republicans alike have been quick to call these reopenings a step in the wrong direction but it should also be considered that according to the new administration, these facilities will not be run like those of the Trump era. These facilities will be under the control of the Department of Health and Human Services, an agency with a very different reputation and very different goals.
The statements surrounding the reopened facilities is to keep these children from having to stay in the Border Patrol centers—places with actual cells— while they wait to get resettled with a sponsor. The facility in Carrizo is equipped with classroom tents, hair salon and barber tents, a basketball court and a soccer field; the one in Homestead has still not announced what their center may offer. The Homestead facility’s conditions were treacherous back in 2019 when it closed. Hopefully, major changes, like the ones made in Carrizo will be made to improve its living conditions. After all, these migrants are not coming to the United States to live off of the government; they are coming here because they fear for their lives in their home country. The least this country can offer them is human decency.

“I think that strict border regulations are generally a good thing regardless of administration. In terms of promises and all, I don’t think any administration can deliver the promises of a heavenly detention center. With that in mind, it’s honestly hard to say whether or not these places are good or bad. In the end, I’m fairly happy with Biden’s choice to reinforce border security, despite his criticisms of Trump’s border security during the election,” sophomore Eugene Francisco said.

Though this policy seems positive, immigration activists who fight for the welfare of migrants are still concerned over the facility’s transparency and expensive cost. The fact that these centers are found in such isolated areas also concern some people, as the actual treatment of the children will be mostly unknown. Regardless of whether or not the new facilities will be more livable, some spaces where immigrant children need to be forcefully held in are deplorable. Getting them documented and ensuring that these facilities remain transitional living spaces should be of top priority.

It is difficult to say that such immigration action is absolutely terrible until more time has passed and more transparency is offered from detention centers like these. Immigration policy is morally and ethically complex; the right thing to do may not always be seen so clearly. A detention center is no place for a child, let alone a newly orphaned child. However, if the Biden administration is able to quickly reunite them with who they are supposed to be with in this country, then this action might not be as terrible as the previous administration’s.