Democrat lawmaker disputes DHS photos of nearly empty migrant detention center

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A Democratic congressman from Texas said photos released by the Biden administration showing a nearly empty migrant detention center are misleading — and that the children are being held in a nearby facility.

Rep. Henry Cuellar called out the photos released last week by the Department of Homeland Security of a center in Donna, Texas, that portrayed a dramatic reduction in the number of unaccompanied minors compared to the packed centers just a few weeks ago.

Cuellar said the kids are in other facilities operated by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“All they’re doing is they’re moving kids from one tent to the other tent and saying, ‘Oh, they’re not in the Border Patrol (custody),’ but they’re right next door,” Cuellar told the Border Report on Wednesday.

“They’re just next door in HHS.”

DHS acknowledged in a statement that the children are in custody of HHS but would not say where they are being held.

The photos “demonstrate the tremendous progress that DHS and its partners have made to safely and efficiently transfer these children out of CBP custody and into the care of HHS,” the statement said.

Another Democrat, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, said it’s clear that the administration isn’t doing enough to stem the tide of migrants coming to the border.

“Arizona is bearing the brunt of this crisis because of the federal government’s failure to address immigration issues over the last three decades,” she told Fox 10 Phoenix, noting that she met recently with the state’s National Guard.

Sinema and fellow Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, also a Democrat, wrote a letter to President Biden supporting Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s request for the federal government to repay the state for the expense of having Guardsmen deployed at the border.

“We haven’t yet heard from the Biden Administration, but we continue to call on them for the urgency of the crisis we face.”

Ducey last month declared an emergency and deployed the Arizona National Guard to help local law enforcement.

He said the deployment would cost $25 million in initial funding.

Cuellar, vice chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, said he has toured the Donna facility a number of times since the number of young migrants has surged along the border after Biden took office.

He said the detention center has expanded each week, and five tents were recently added to accommodate the migrant youths — each of which can hold about 1,500 children.

Border Report said its reporters visited the Donna facility on Wednesday and found that the number of tents has grown since February, and the former farm field is surrounded by black fencing.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, speaking at Tuesday’s briefing, said the amount of time children spend in Customs and Border Patrol facilities has fallen 75 percent — from 131 hours since the end of March to under 30 hours now.

She also said there were more than 5,000 children in CPB centers at the end of March, a number that has dropped to 600 now.

“Clearly, we’re not done; there’s a lot of work ahead. Migration is a dynamic and evolving challenge, but the president has a plan and we’re working on implementing it,” Psaki said.

DHS announced that there were just 677 children in CBP custody, an 88% drop from March 28 when more than 5,700 children were in custody as of last Saturday.

The presentation by DHS included a series of before-and-after photos of a processing facility in Donna, Texas.

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