AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nearly a week after saying he’d ask President Joe Biden to address the recent surge of asylum-seeking unaccompanied minors arriving at the Texas border, Governor Greg Abbott has sent the letter to the White House.
In a letter to Biden, Abbott urged the administration to interview all minors coming over the border to determine whether they have been targeted in any way by human traffickers — in addition to explaining what’s being done to prosecute those doing the trafficking.
Abbott wrote, in part:
“Recent decisions by your administration are emboldening dangerous cartels, smugglers, and human traffickers to ramp up their criminal operations… In many cases, these criminals entice unaccompanied minors into inhumane conditions and expose them to abuse and terror. We have a duty to investigate these border crossings so we can protect the victims of human trafficking that have already crossed our borders, crack down on the perpetrators of this heinous crime, and ensure federal policies do not allow – or even incentivize – such behavior.”Gov. Greg Abbott, March 23, 2021
The letter included many of the questions the state of Texas is asking the Biden administration to pose to all unaccompanied minors.
- How are these children coming across the border and who is helping them get here?
- Were these children abused or harmed in any way on their journeys?
- How many victims of physical abuse, sexual assault, or trafficking has the administration identified?
- Are you using effective DNA tests to confirm familial relations? How else are you ensuring that these children are being released to safe, trustworthy adults?
Additionally, the governor says Texas wants to know what is being done to address the surge overall.
Last week, Abbott laid blame at the Biden White House for the dramatic increase of asylum-seeking migrants, saying Biden border policies have “encouraged” it.
While Abbott is expanding the scope of Operation Lonestar, which includes deploying 1,000 DPS officers and rangers to combat human trafficking, he says the ultimate responsibility for making long-term solutions lies with the federal government.
In the past weeks, two new overflow facilities for migrant minors were announced in the state: the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas and the soon-to-be-opened Target Lodge Pecos North ICF facility in West Texas. The Hutchison Center took in 3,000 teenage boys last week, while the Pecos site’s expected to initially house 500 youths, but may have the ability to house up to 2,000 eventually.
These sites aim to take the strain off of Border Patrol.
A recent CNN report explained that on the whole, children are spending an average of five days at facilities and at least 500 have been in custody up to 34 days. That’s despite the law stating unaccompanied minors should be processed and sent to HHS shelters within 72 hours.
Despite Abbott’s comments, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN over the weekend that border policies crumbled under the Trump administration and what’s happening now is the result.
“January 20 was not suddenly the moment the border looked differently. Numbers increase and decrease all the time,” a Biden administration official told CNN. “Adults are being turned back. Most families are being turned back. We can process and protect children coming to our borders seeking help as the law requires and our administration is doing that.”
Since taking office, President Biden has reversed several Trump policies, including funding for the US-Mexico border wall and implementing protections for asylum seekers forced to wait in Mexico while awaiting hearings.
But while Biden is taking a softer approach in dealing with migrants, Mayorkas nonetheless says the administration’s stance is: “Do not come.”