President Joe Biden addressed his administration’s controversial decision to reopen a Texas facility designed to hold unaccompanied migrant minors during a Univision interview on Friday.
The facility, located in Carrizo Springs, was opened by the Trump administration to house 700 teenagers aged 13 to 17 and closed only a month later in the summer of 2019.
Biden’s team has said that its reopening is a temporary measure designed to cope with increased numbers of migrant children crossing the U.S. and Mexico border, as well as COVID-19 closing other facilities for minors.
“Right now there’s thousands of unaccompanied children coming across the border,” Biden told Univision’s Ilia Calderon. “We’ve been able to place a significant number of them in licensed facilities throughout the country ... In Texas, they opened up one ... used in the last administration. Our hope and expectation is that won’t stay open very long and that we’ll be able to provide for every kid who comes across the border safely to be housed in a facility that’s licensed.”
First lady Jill Biden, who was also present during the interview, echoed her husband’s remarks and said that the Biden administration’s priorities were to house migrant children, offer them mental health and legal services and reunite them with family members in a “humane way.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki conveyed a similar message during a Thursday appearance on “The View.” Psaki defended the reopening, arguing that temporarily housing unaccompanied children in a revamped facility was significantly different from family separation at the border, which was a common practice during the Trump era.
Nevertheless, the decision has garnered criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortz (D-N.Y.) calling it unacceptable “no matter the administration or party,” and arguing that the entire U.S. immigration system is “built on a carceral framework.”
Former Trump senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, meanwhile, argued that Biden’s immigration policies were “cruel” during a Fox News appearance on Wednesday, despite the fact that he was a major proponent of family separation during his time in the White House.
Watch the full interview below.