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Over 700 children in detention as Biden reopens Trump-era infamous site for refugee kids

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Refugee children are seen at a migrant encampment in Matamoros, Mexico, on February 19, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

US President Joe Biden has opened a Trump-era detention center to lock up hundreds of refugee children, a move reminiscent of the former president’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

Biden reopened the site – a reverted camp for oil field workers in Carrizo Springs, Texas — to hold 700 refugee children.

The camp will be home to kids between the ages of 13 and 17, dozens of whom have already arrived there, according to an internal Customs and Border Protection document (CBP).

Under an agreement — the Flores Settlement Agreement — CBP is prohibited from holding children for more than three days.

The same agreement says asylum-seeking children transferred to ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement} detention centers cannot spend more than 20 days there, after which they must be released.

Around 200 children had already been held up for over 48 hours, and in the case of nine child refugees, for over 72 hours, which exceeds the maximum limit.

Last month, the CBP encountered 5,707 child refugees at the southwest border, almost a thousand more than in December, 4,855.

The Biden administration, which came under fire for reopening the child detention facility, has defended the move as a temporary fix in the times of the coronavirus pandemic.

It claimed that the notorious facility was reopened since the Office of Refugee Resettlement cannot house as many asylum seekers as before due to the COVID-19 restrictions. 

The US president had promised to roll back Trump’s assault on the country’s immigration system.

As part of his policy, Trump called for the criminal prosecutions of every adult illegally crossing the border and, as a result, led to the separation of thousands of families.

Biden’s reopening of the refugee detention center has drawn criticism from his fellow Democrats, who compared his move to Trump’s “keeping children in cages” policy.

The lawyers working to reunite those refugee children and parents are still trying to locate the parents of 506 children, according to a new court filing, which said on Wednesday attorneys were looking for the parents of 506 children.

They said on Wednesday that they have found the parents of 105 children in the past month. About 322 of the 506 children are believed to have been deported.

The filing is the first under the Biden administration, which is now responsible for the reunification of the separated families.

Biden revokes Trump’s pause on green cards

The US president revoked on Wednesday a Trump-era policy that blocked many green card applicants from entering the US.

Trump issued the ban last year, citing protection for American workers amid high unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden rescinded the visa ban, saying that the policy had prevented families from reuniting in the United States and harmed US businesses.

Human rights advocates had called for Biden to lift the visa ban, which was set to expire on March 31.

Biden, however, left in place another ban that restricted most foreign temporary worker and affected hundreds of thousands of US businesses.

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