Editorial: Conditions for migrant children no better under Biden

This article features Laurie Elkin and Justin Mulaire and was originally published here.

One of the Democratic shouting points during the Trump administration was the conditions in which migrants — particularly children — were detained on our southern border.

“Kids in cages” was the rallying cry for criticizing surge centers, especially the practice of separating children from parents and holding them in chain-link fenced cells. Blame was assigned by both sides as the border crisis escalated.

With the election of Joe Biden, one would presume the problems pointed out by Democrats would be solved. If surges were to continue, then at least conditions for children would improve.

A whistleblower report put an end to that wishful thinking.

As The Hill reported, contractors in charge of migrant children housed at a facility in Fort Bliss, Texas, were trained to assist with disaster recovery but had few Spanish skills and little ability to care for minors, two federal employees detailed to the border said in a whistleblower complaint filed Wednesday.

The complaint describes a chaotic situation for the nearly 5,000 children housed in tents at the facility in May.

Laurie Elkin and Justin Mulaire, employees with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Chicago, volunteered for a 30-day detail to the facility, which was overseen by Servpro, a “fire and water cleanup and restoration” business.

These are the good folks who vow to clean up your waterlogged home so it looks like the flood “never even happened.” Laudable, but for overseeing a border detention facility?

The complaint details how stacks of bunk beds made it difficult to keep a line of sight on all children, many of whom were visibly distressed.

The Servpro contractors also used loud music to wake the children each day, with some bunks just 10 feet from the giant speakers.

The complaint also said contractors on site repeatedly fought attempts to help children at the facility access medical care.

“Each discovered multiple children who reported medical problems — ranging from unexplained pain to profuse bleeding. They also discovered children who were deeply upset and anxious about their situation and wanted to talk to a counselor,” the complaint read.

They went on to cite unclean bedding and unwashed clothing for the children.

However these children come to these facilities — with families, with strangers, alone, caught by border patrol, detained at ports of entry — they are children, with little to no agency over their own lives.

As border czar, Vice President Kamala Harris should have gotten the wheels in motion to better conditions for children long before this.

As expected, the knee-jerk response in Washington is to point fingers while chaos swirls.

As The Hill previously reported, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) was asked by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota if it is “fair to call what we’re seeing today at the border a crisis,” Merkley argued that while it could get to that point, a large number of the children being detained were “stranded, some for months, some for years, by the Trump administration in Mexico under completely intolerable circumstances.”

“Now that the border is not closed, they’re knocking on our door, and you had a set of policies that were determined to treat children very poorly so you didn’t have essentially the systems in place under the Trump administration, and the Biden administration is creating those systems and they’re doing it with a completely different vision,” the senator added.

Visions are fine, but action is better.