October 19, 2023 - 4:30pm

Amid a surge of migrants illegally entering the US, the Biden administration is reopening a detention centre for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, evoking a popular criticism from the Trump years that border authorities who detain minors in such facilities are placing “kids in cages”.

The Obama administration built detention facilities specifically to accommodate minors, beginning in 2014, in response to massive waves of Central American migrants crossing the border with children. This practice was encouraged by smugglers because of the reduced risk of deportation such families faced compared to single adults.

These facilities, often built in massive warehouses with chain link fences dividing the population into various groups by age and other factors, became a political flashpoint during the Trump presidency, particularly during the short-lived zero-tolerance policy, under which the administration criminally prosecuted all migrants caught crossing the border illegally. The policy resulted in the separation of children from adults, at least 170 of whom had fraudulently claimed to be related to said children.

The Biden administration’s reopening of the Carrizo Springs facility that was built in 2019 is the latest in a series of efforts to curb illegal immigration, often in stark contrast to the President’s anti-Trump messaging in 2020. 

In another example, the US has recently resumed the deportation of Venezuelans who illegally enter the country to discourage migrants from undertaking the dangerous journey through South and Central America. Biden officials hope that the decision will encourage prospective migrants to opt for expanded legal pathways available to Venezuelan migrants instead.

Biden promised during his presidential campaign that “not another foot” of border wall would be built under his leadership, but his administration is now pushing through the construction of 20 additional miles along the Texas-Mexico border, waiving numerous laws and regulations to get the project done. Funding came from a 2019 congressional appropriation, according to Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, who wrote that the border wall construction was consistent with the President’s pledge to use such funds for their intended purpose — but halt the allocating funds for border wall construction in the future. 

US Customs and Border Patrol is on pace to encounter more than 2.3 million migrants crossing the southern border this year, which will surpass the previous record set in 2022. Many of these migrants have found their way to sanctuary cities such as New York and Chicago, where predominantly Democratic residents are becoming increasingly critical of mass migration and Democratic leaders including New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker are demanding action from the Biden administration. 

The wave of migrants entering major cities has caused a change in attitudes among blue state voters: 77% of New York Democrats view the recent influx of migrants as a serious problem, and only 48% of them believe the state should accept new migrants, according to an August poll from Siena. Several New Yorkers revealed their developing concerns about mass migration to the New York Times in September, politely explaining that immigration needs to be restricted.

 “We’re not here to take in the whole world,” one lifelong Democrat told the outlet. “We can only do so much.”

The White House has been contacted for comment.

is UnHerd’s US correspondent.