Wednesday, March 3, 2021

A Troubling Start – Why President Biden’s reopening of the Carrizo Springs Child Detention Center is an upsetting first-step for those who had expected changes to U.S. immigration policies

Guest blogger: Daniel Jimenez, law student, University of San Francisco:

For many of President Joe Biden’s pro-immigration allies, the honeymoon stage of his election victory seems to be coming to quick and abrupt end. Last week, to the dismay of many, the President decided to reopen the highly contentious Child Detention Center in Carrizo Springs, Texas.[1]

The site, which was initially used as a housing complex for oilfield workers, was first opened by President Trump in 2019. This original opening was deemed necessary to deal with an influx of minors that were expected to enter the country that summer. However, this influx never truly developed, and the site was closed less than a month later.[2]  

This time around, it is Covid-19 that is behind the center’s reopening. When asked about the facility, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated that the site was necessary to ensure that the administration’s social distancing policies were properly observed. She claims that without the facility, the alternative would have been to forcibly send thousands of unaccompanied children back across the border to their countries of origin.[3] Instead, the administration can now ensure that these children are properly cared for as their immigration cases are dealt with.

The controversy surrounding these facilities can be found in how they are ran. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (“HSS”), the Carrizo Springs center is officially designated as an “influx care facility.”[4] The Office of Refugee Resettlement, a subbranch of the HHS, defines an “influx care facility” as, “a type of care provider facility that opens temporarily to provide emergency shelter and services for UAC [unaccompanied alien children] during an influx or emergency.”[5] What makes these facilities unique is they do not have to adhere to state regulations.[6] As such, these facilities often do not possess the requisite childcare licenses that the state mandates other childcare providers have.[7]

Likewise, these facilities are not officially managed by the HSS, but are instead contracted out to either private companies or non-profit organizations. This allows for less government oversite and adherence to government regulation. The Carrizo Springs site will be controlled by the San Antonio non-profit BCFS Health and Human Services. Interestingly, the non-profit will reportedly receive roughly $775 a day in expenditure costs per child held at the site.

Understandably, the Corona virus has forced everyone, including the government, to make unwanted and unpopular decisions. However, President Biden must understand that there are just some things that even the Corona virus cannot excuse. After years of this nation having to witness children being separated from their parents, and subsequently locked in cages, one would think that the President would have learned from the mistakes of his predecessor.

The solution for unaccompanied minors is not over-glorified detention centers, but rather it is fixing the system so that these children are quickly unified with their intended guardians on this side of the border. Keeping these children away from their families does a huge disserves to them and to this nation. It signifies a true lack of compassion and runs counter to what this nation is supposed to stand for.

As with any new administration, time will be the ultimate decider. President Biden has made a lot of promises concerning immigration reform and many are expecting him to deliver. Hopefully, this first-step was just a mistake and the President will do the right thing and close the facility. If not, the President may soon find himself having to deal with a very disgruntled electorate.


[1] Haltiwanger, John, Biden opens up migrant child facility, prompting criticism from progressives like AOC, Insider Inc. (Feb. 24, 2021),

[2] Cam, Deniz, Trump’s Newest Shelter For Migrant Youth Is Being Shut Down Less Than A Month After Its Opening, Forbes (Jul. 23, 2019),

[3] Ordonez, Franco, Biden Pledges That Border Shelter For Teens 'Won't Stay Open Very Long', NPR. (Feb. 25, 2021),

[4] Haltwanger, Supra note 1.

[5] Office of Refugee Resettlement, Children Entering the United States Unaccompanied: Section 7 (2019),

[6] Haltwanger, Supra note 1.

[7]  Id.


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