The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has changed its guidelines to allow the Biden administration to house migrant children that cross the U.S. border illegally in shelters at 100% capacity, according to a report.
Previously, the CDC required that temporary housing shelters used by the federal government to house unaccompanied minors be filled to only 50% capacity as a COVID-19 safety protocol. But Axios reported Friday that the CDC lifted this requirement as the Biden administration faces a crisis at the U.S. southern border.
"Facilities should plan for and expect to have COVID-19 cases," a draft CDC memo reported by Axios states. The memo encourages facility operators to continue giving COVID-19 tests to children placed there, wear masks, follow 14-day quarantine guidelines, and improve ventilation.
The situation at the border is not good. President Joe Biden reversed President Donald Trump's COVID-19 pandemic policy of turning migrants away at the border, which has led to an influx of kids and adults migrating to the U.S. An average of 321 unaccompanied children are arriving at the southern border each day.
The children taken into custody by the federal government can either be housed at facilities operated by the Department of Health and Human Services or by U.S. Customs & Border Patrol. The Department of Health and Human Services has called for 20,000 additional beds to accommodate the expected number of migrants arriving in the next few months. The facilities operated by CBP are currently "operating significantly above COVID-19 capacities."
"At this time, CBP does not have adequate space for physical distancing, quarantine of persons exposed to COVID-19 or isolation of ill or infected persons," the memo says.
The CDC recommends that migrants be housed by DHS as the safer option, necessitating that DHS facilities operate beyond 50% capacity.
The Biden administration came under fire in recent weeks for reopening a temporary facility for migrant children in Texas that previously held unaccompanied minors under President Donald Trump. Critics accused the administration of continuing President Trump's immigration policies, a charge that White House press secretary Jen Psaki vigorously denied.
"To ensure the health and safety of these kids, HHS took steps to open an emergency facility to add capacity where these children can be provided with the care they need before they are safely placed with families and sponsors," Psaki
said last week.
Axios notes that the CDC memo comes "amid a ferocious national debate over whether and when to reopen schools." The report points out that these CDC guidelines only apply to migrant children housed at federal facilities, and do not speak to whether it's safe to reopen schools.