Court Filing Challenges Biden And Reverses Course Of Migrant Children In Outdoor Camps

By Robert Cunningham, updated on March 5, 2024

In a bold move, human rights groups are taking legal action against the Biden administration over the treatment of migrant children in outdoor detention camps, marking a significant reversal from the previous administration's policies.

Several organizations, including the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL), Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CHRCL), and Children's Rights, have filed a court motion alleging violations of a 1993 Supreme Court settlement that sets minimum standards for the care of unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody.

The groups specifically cite conditions in Jacumba and San Ysidro, California, where migrant children are being held in open-air sites with inadequate hygiene, food, shelter, and security. The motion seeks to block the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from detaining migrant children in these conditions and to document detentions that exceed two hours.

Surge In Migrant Crossings Overwhelms Border Patrol

The Biden administration has faced a record-breaking surge in migrant crossings, which has overwhelmed Border Patrol and led to the use of outdoor detention sites in several locations, including Arizona and Texas.

In 2021, nearly 30,000 mostly Haitian migrants crossed into Del Rio, Texas, causing overcrowding and prompting migrants to construct makeshift shelters. The number of unaccompanied migrant children encountered at the southwest border increased from 30,557 in 2020 to nearly 145,000 in 2021, with a total of 468,396 apprehended between 2021 and January 2024.

A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) source indicates that the high volume of crossings and lack of resources have made it impossible to adhere to agency policies for detaining migrants, especially children.

Humanitarian Volunteers Provide Lifesaving Support To Detained Children

Neha Desai, senior director of immigration at NCYL, emphasizes the urgency of the situation:

For at least a year now, children have been held in these egregious conditions for varying lengths of time; there is no reason to believe the situation will resolve on its own. Without lifesaving support that volunteers provide, who knows how many children's lives would be lost? But it is the responsibility of the government, not humanitarian volunteers, to ensure that these children's most basic needs are met.

CBP policy requires migrant children to be transferred to Health and Human Services (HHS) within 72 hours, a standard that has not been consistently met. The conditions and policies regarding the detention of migrant children have become a significant legal and humanitarian concern, highlighting the broader challenges of managing large migrant flows.

Biden Administration Struggles To Manage Record-Breaking Migrant Influx

The record-breaking migrant surge has created a systemic issue across the southwest border, affecting multiple locations where outdoor detention sites have been hastily established in response to overcrowding.

A source within Customs and Border Protection admits, "This is the new norm under this administration. We were never funded or equipped to handle more than two million migrants crossing each year." They add, "When the spikes occur, they are concentrated in just a few areas along the southern border," and "When you are out of buses or detention space, you're done."

The Biden administration's struggle to manage the unprecedented influx of migrants has led to a reversal of course regarding the treatment of migrant children in outdoor camps, prompting human rights groups to take legal action to enforce a decades-old court settlement.


The legal challenge brought by human rights groups against the Biden administration highlights the dire conditions faced by migrant children in outdoor detention camps along the southwest border. The record-breaking surge in migrant crossings has overwhelmed Border Patrol, leading to overcrowding and the use of inadequate open-air sites.

Despite the efforts of humanitarian volunteers, the government's responsibility to ensure the basic needs of detained children are met has come under scrutiny. As the administration struggles to manage the unprecedented influx of migrants, the reversal of course regarding the treatment of migrant children has become a significant legal and humanitarian concern.

About Robert Cunningham

With years of experience at the forefront of political commentary, Robert Cunningham brings a blend of sharp wit and deep insight to his analysis of American principles at the Capitalism Institute.

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