CDC finalizes order allowing unaccompanied children to enter US in exception to pandemic rule
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday affirmed the Biden administration’s policy of letting unaccompanied children enter the country as an exception to a pandemic-based regulation allowing border officials to quickly expel anyone who crosses.
The Biden White House has relied extensively on so-called Title 42, which was finalized by the CDC under the Trump administration in March of last year, to quickly expel migrants crossing the border, including asylum-seekers.
But amid litigation, the CDC in February temporarily permitted the Biden administration to make an exception, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has since allowed in unaccompanied minors and even some families who have remained in detention while they pursue their claims.
Friday’s order cements the February notice, and follows an executive order from President Biden directing the CDC to assess what modifications should be made to Title 42.
Biden officials have repeatedly said the order is necessary, arguing the U.S. has an obligation to provide for children who cross the border alone and cannot return them to unsafe conditions.
“These kids, we have a couple of options. We can send them back home and do a dangerous journey back. We are not doing that, either. That is also putting them at risk,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in February.
The order comes amid a broader discussion over Title 42 and amid reports Biden is expected to begin lifting the policy by the end of the month.
DHS said in a statement that it “will continue to enforce CDC orders issued under the CDC’s Title 42 public health authority, and we will continue to defer to the public health experts on any decisions as they relate to Title 42.”
In a release the CDC said the order would help the government “better address the humanitarian challenges for these children.”
“CDC considered multiple factors in its public health assessment and finds that, at this time, there is appropriate infrastructure in place to protect the children, caregivers, and local communities from elevated risk of COVID-19 transmission as a result of the introduction of UC, and U.S. healthcare resources are not significantly impacted by providing UC necessary care,” they wrote in a release, using an abbreviation for unaccompanied children.
As of Wednesday, the government has more than 15,000 children under its care while it seeks sponsors and relatives for the unaccompanied minors.
Still, concerns have been raised over the swelling number of children in government custody.
Government whistleblowers complained about conditions at a facility in Texas, saying children were observed by contractors trained to assist with disaster recovery and who had few Spanish skills and little ability to care for minors.