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Biden to rescind Trump order on processing young migrants

Biden to rescind Trump order on processing young migrants
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The Biden administration is scrapping a Trump-era policy that connected immigration enforcement with efforts to find U.S.-based family members to house children who crossed the Southern border.

The news comes as the U.S. has a record 3,500 children sitting in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody as of earlier this week, according to multiple reports, and as another 8,500 have been housed while awaiting placement with relatives or sponsors.

The 2018 agreement allowed data sharing between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is charged for caring with children taken into custody after crossing the border. 

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Administration officials said the move was designed to stem the “chilling effect” that left sponsors in fear of coming forward to house children lest they be deported themselves.

“There will not be immigration consequences for coming forward and taking care of these kids,” an administration official said on a call with reporters.

“We are a child care agency, we are not an immigration enforcement agency,” another official added, referring to the role HHS plays in the immigration system. “This makes it really clear that this administration prioritizes uniting a child with their family member or sponsor.”

Parts of the memorandum had already been rescinded either through government directives or legal challenges, making the move at least partly symbolic. Still, administration officials maintained it would have a meaningful effect as the government seeks to expedite the process of identifying and vetting potential sponsors for children being held at the border.

The announcement came as Biden officials largely doubled down on their messaging of recent weeks about the growing challenge at the southern border, where thousands of migrants are crossing each week and thousands of children are being held in Border Patrol facilities.

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HHS is working to add hundreds of beds each week to accommodate the surge in migration. White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBlinken talks with Netanyahu amid escalating violence White House: 'Disturbing' to see Cheney booted for telling the truth The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Republican reactions to Cheney's removal MORE told reporters Tuesday that the administration is looking at new facilities to house the unaccompanied children, but would not specify where.

The White House does not intend to request supplemental funding from Congress to deal with the current surge, however, officials said.

Administration officials have come under scrutiny for their refusal to disclose exactly how many migrants are being held in government care and for declining to deem the situation a crisis. Republicans have seized on the situation, arguing that President BidenJoe BidenBiden says Beau's assessment of first 100 days would be 'Be who you are' Biden: McCarthy's support of Cheney ouster is 'above my pay grade' Conservative group sues over prioritization of women, minorities for restaurant aid MORE’s rhetoric and swift reversal of his predecessor’s hard-line immigration policies invited a surge in migration.

“This is not a political issue anymore. It’s becoming a national security concern,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyWarren says Republican party 'eating itself and it is discovering that the meal is poisonous' Biden: McCarthy's support of Cheney ouster is 'above my pay grade' On The Money: Inflation jumps at fastest pace since 2008 | Biden 'encouraged' on bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE (R-Calif.) said Thursday.

But officials on Friday’s call insisted they inherited a dire situation made worse by the policies of the Trump administration and pleaded for patience as they seek to address root causes of migration from Central America and rebuild the U.S. immigration system. 

“The Biden administration inherited a broken immigration system that was exacerbated by the prior administration,” one official said. “Change will not happen overnight but there is a roadmap from the president.”

Biden officials have repeatedly said now is not the time for migrants to trek to the U.S. border, and the vast majority of migrants crossing the border are still being expelled under a Trump-era order that allows swift deportation in the name of COVID-19.

But the administration Friday refused to answer questions about when the Biden administration might lift the so-called Title 42 policy, even as Biden on Thursday night promised a rapid rollout of vaccines and suggested families would be able to safely gather by the Fourth of July.

Officials also refused to answer questions about whether it would seek to expand the Title 42 expulsion process to 16 and 17 year olds, as reported by BuzzFeed News earlier this week.