The Morning Jolt


The Media Rebrand ‘Kids in Cages’

Beware the Ides of March. The Biden administration is having an increasingly difficult time grappling with the “unprecedented crisis” on our southern border, and the national media are having an increasingly difficult time pretending that Joe Biden’s rhetoric and policies had nothing to do with the surge of migrants arriving now. Meanwhile, some recent statistics about alleged Republican skepticism over the coronavirus vaccine are not quite as convincing as some in the media would like to believe.

It’s No Longer ‘Kids in Cages,’ Just ‘Children in Facilities Similar to Jail’

Hey, remember how then-candidate Joe Biden denounced the “Trump-created humanitarian crisis at our border”? Good times, good times. It turns out humanitarian crises at the southern border are a lot easier to create than the Biden team thought.

There’s a dark humor to watching media institutions such as ABC News trying to acknowledge that the new administration that is (How Refreshing)™ is now putting record numbers of migrant children in “facilities similar to jail,” which sounds suspiciously like the “kids in cages” we previously saw denounced as a “moral stain” on our nation by both the media and Democratic senators.

The number of unaccompanied teens and children in U.S. custody along the U.S.-Mexico border has reached record numbers, forcing children to stay longer in perilously overcrowded border facilities, many of which are similar to jail, multiple sources who reviewed the most recent government data told ABC News. There are now 4,276 children in custody, up from about 3,400 earlier in the week. It is a 25 percent increase, which sources tell ABC News is troubling and could lead to the kind of environment last seen during the 2018-2019 surge, in which six migrant children died in U.S. custody.

Overcrowding, measured in pre-pandemic levels, has spiked, various sources who reviewed recent government data told ABC News. Rio Grande Valley is at 363 percent capacity and all the major Border patrol sectors are at well over 100 percent capacity.

CBS News offers more details about the treatment of migrant children under the new administration’s management:

Children interviewed on Thursday by lawyers conducting oversight as part of a federal court case reported sleeping on the floor; being hungry; only showering once in as many as seven days; and not being able to call family members.

“One of them shared that he could only see the sun when he showered, because you can see the sun through the window,” Neha Desai, a lawyer at the National Center for Youth Law, told CBS News, citing interviews with nearly a dozen children, including an unaccompanied 8-year-old girl.

I’ll remind you that the vice president used to say, “This is a president who has pushed policies that’s been about putting babies in cages at the border in the name of security when in fact what it is, is a human-rights abuse being committed by the United States government.” How would Harris characterize the treatment of children in CBP facilities now?

Is it any less of a human-rights abuse when she and Biden do it?

(You’re a well-read readership with a long memory, so you no doubt recall that one of the factors that spurred the outrage about “kids” in cages were photos taken by AP’s Ross D. Franklin at a center run by the Customs and Border Protection Agency in Nogales, Ariz., back in 2014, under the Obama administration.)

If a Democratic presidential candidate spends a lot of time denouncing a Republican administration’s immigration enforcement as “draconian policies, grounded in fear and racism” and promises to create a “roadmap to citizenship” for 11 million people who entered the country illegally and to undo every restriction on entering the country enacted during the previous administration, while tacking on a perfunctory pledge to “enforce our laws without targeting communities, violating due process, or tearing apart families’. . . what do you think these migrants are going to hear?

But between the lines of the news coverage, you can see a lot of effort to treat the migrant surge as just some strange and random thing that happened, completely unconnected to Biden’s rhetoric and policy changes.

That ABC News report notes that, “Traditionally, the numbers of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. increases in late spring.” Is it late spring already? Most Americans haven’t even filled out their NCAA Tournament brackets yet. What we’re seeing is not traditional or seasonal. Something changed in the past few months that convinced these migrants that they were now allowed to cross the border into the United States without legal consequence.

Of course, Vox and the Migrant Policy Institute are here to assure us that none of this is Joe Biden’s fault:

“This isn’t a new flow that we’re just seeing because Biden is coming into office,” Jessica Bolter, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, said. “The US government still hasn’t figured out exactly how to manage this flow of families and children. And throughout the Trump administration, the government neglected to find a way to adjust US border enforcement mechanisms in a way that protects their rights, but also exerts control over the system.”

. . . Smugglers have also been spreading misinformation about the Biden administration’s plans to process asylum seekers in an effort to profit from it. Pinheiro said she has heard rumors spreading that migrants staying in certain camps will be processed or that the borders would open at midnight.

But that’s not to say that favorable policies from the Biden administration are primarily what’s driving people to migrate. Pandemic-related economic deterioration and hurricanes that devastated Central America late last year, as well as more longstanding issues such as gang violence, government corruption, and crop failures due to climate change in the region are among the factors pushing people out of their home countries to make the perilous journey north.

“If people are already struggling with crop failures or their house has been destroyed by a hurricane or they’re being extorted, and then they hear that there’s a new administration coming in that’s going to treat migrants better, that could be kind of the tipping point where they say, ‘Now is the right time to migrate.’ But it wouldn’t come out of the blue,” Bolter, of the Migration Policy Institute, said.

First, the last hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic-hurricane season was Tropical Storm Gamma, which made landfall October 3. You’re telling us we’re seeing an intense surge of kids coming across the border in early-to-mid-March because of hurricanes that hit before Trump went to the hospital with coronavirus?

Second, if pandemic-related economic deterioration is what’s driving the surge of migrants, why didn’t the surge we’re seeing now occur much earlier in 2020? (Keep in mind, since the pandemic hit, the International Monetary Fund, Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank, and the Development Bank of Latin America have provided $88.7 billion in loans and other economic assistance to Central American countries — and that’s separate from the U.S. assistance provided in two supplemental appropriations bills passed in 2020.)

In fact, the month with the lowest level of Southwest border apprehensions by the Customs and Border Patrol was April 2020, with 16,182. Sounds like the pandemic slowed down attempts to cross the border considerably. By August, it was back up beyond 50,000, and by October, it was beyond 70,000. Last month it was past 100,000, for the first time since June 2019.

Between Vox and the WHO, do you feel like you’re constantly being given implausible explanations?

Whether or not Joe Biden wanted to send the message, “Come up North, the border is open,” he has effectively done so. And the waves of migrants are likely to continue until he loudly, clearly, and repeatedly communicates otherwise. Either immigration laws are enforced, or they aren’t.

Read the Fine Print on Stories about Republican Vaccine Hesitancy

Axios: “Polling and public officials are increasingly sounding the alarm about one group of Americans that remains stubbornly resistant to the idea of receiving a coronavirus vaccine: Republicans. . . . Nearly half of Republican men — 49% — say they won’t choose to be vaccinated if a vaccine is available to them, according to a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey.

Keep in mind, that same survey found 24 percent of all self-identified Republicans and 20 percent of all self-identified Republican men said they had already received the vaccine. Self-identified Republican men made up 13 percent of the sample. So if slightly less than half of this demographic really does turn down the vaccine when offered, we’re looking at 6 to 7 percent of the overall adult population.

Vaccine hesitancy is a problem that we will face, but not quite yet. Most Americans who don’t have health conditions are still too young to be eligible for vaccination in most states. The rules in each state are a patchwork of categories, including first responders, teachers, certain professions, etc. Indiana, Ohio, and Utah are vaccinating those 50 and over. Alaska, Connecticut, and South Carolina are now vaccinating those 55 and over. Kentucky, Maine, and New York are vaccinating those 60 and over. But most of the rest are only vaccinating those 65 and older. Vast swaths of Republican men aren’t yet eligible to get the vaccine.

As of this morning, 107 million doses have been put into the arms of Americans, and 11.3 percent of American adults have been fully vaccinated. We’re making considerable progress, but we’re nowhere near the point where anybody who wants a vaccine can get one, and facing the problem of persuading the skeptical.

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