“They are sending pallets, pallets of baby formula to the border. Meanwhile, in our own district at home, we cannot find baby formula.”
— Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.), on social media, May 12
“While mothers and fathers stare at empty grocery store shelves in a panic, the Biden administration is happy to provide baby formula to illegal immigrants coming across our southern border. This is yet another one in a long line of reckless, out-of-touch priorities from the Biden administration when it comes to securing our border and protecting Americans.”
— Joint statement by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) President Brandon Judd, May 12
Cammack sparked a furor Thursday when she posted photos that compared what she said were stockpiles of baby formula for undocumented immigrants with empty grocery shelves for Americans in local stores. “You see the American government sending by the pallet thousands and thousands of containers of baby formula to the border, that would make my blood boil,” she said.
The Texas governor, along with other Republicans, quickly jumped on the bandwagon, issuing a joint statement with a president of a labor union that represents Border Patrol agents.
Cammack said she was not blaming the babies — “it is not the children’s fault at all” — but she and Abbott blasted the Biden administration for allowing this happen.
The problem is that the Biden administration is following the law — a law that President Donald Trump also followed (though he wasn’t happy about it).
At issue is something called the Flores consent decree, which began as a class-action lawsuit regarding the treatment of migrant children. The Justice Department negotiated a settlement in 1997 during President Bill Clinton’s administration.
The Flores settlement requires the federal government to release rather than detain undocumented immigrant children, first to their parents if possible, to other adult relatives if not, and to licensed programs willing to accept custody if no relatives are available. A 2015 judicial ruling then said the Flores settlement covered all children in immigration officials’ custody, regardless of whether they were apprehended crossing the border alone or with family.
Here’s the relevant section of the settlement, which refers to the now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
Note the reference to food: “Whenever the INS takes a minor into custody, it shall expeditiously process the minor and shall provide the minor with a notice of rights, including the right to a bond redetermination hearing if applicable. Following arrest, the INS shall hold minors in facilities that are safe and sanitary and that are consistent with the INS’s concern for the particular vulnerability of minors. Facilities will provide access to toilets and sinks, drinking water and food as appropriate, medical assistance if the minor is in need of emergency services, adequate temperature control and ventilation, adequate supervision to protect minors from others, and contact with family members who were arrested with the minor.”
A 2015 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) document laid out national standards for transport, escort, detention and search processes. These standards are derived from the Flores settlement and a 2008 law that codified elements of Flores, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.
Among those standards: “Food must be appropriate for at-risk detainees’ age and capabilities (such as formula and baby food).”
We mentioned that Trump was no fan of Flores. He tried to get rid of it but was blocked by the courts. So he followed the law, too. “We also observed all Border Patrol stations had food, snacks, juice, and infant formula available for children,” said a 2020 Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report on how the administration struggled to manage the 2019 migrant surge.
“CBP takes seriously its legal responsibility to ensure the safety and security of individuals in our custody,” a DHS spokesman said. “Ensuring migrants, including children and infants, in our custody have their basic needs met is in line with this Administration’s commitment to ensuring safe, orderly, and humane processes at our border. CBP complies with all applicable regulations for the purchase of products used in CBP facilities.”
We sought comments from Cammack, Abbott and Judd but did not get responses.
This is a ridiculous faux outrage. The shortage of baby formula is a serious issue that the administration is seeking to address. But at the same time, the administration cannot be faulted for following the law and providing baby formula to undocumented immigrants. Anyone who suggests this is the result of specific Biden policies, i.e., his “reckless, out-of-touch priorities,” earns Four Pinocchios.
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