Lawyers who visited migrant children say Trump’s border closure turned youngsters into ‘political pawns’

Lawyers who visited unaccompanied migrant children packed into an overcrowded facility in Texas, have said Donald Trump’s decision to turn away thousands of youngsters helped turn the latest migrants into “political pawns”.

Last year, the Trump administration seized on the Covid pandemic to announce on 21 March 2020 it was expelling as many as 13,000 migrants who had been held in US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities. They were sent back to Mexico, under a piece of public health legislation, Article 42, despite critics pointing out they had a legal right to make asylum claims.

In December, a federal court blocked the Trump administration from continuing to deport unaccompanied migrant children. When he assumed office, Joe Biden continued to keep in place large parts of Article 42, but he said his administration would process the claims of unaccompanied youngsters in the US.

In recent weeks, there has been a sharp leap in the number of youngsters being dealt with at the border, leading Republicans to accuse Mr Biden of “opening the borders”. There are approximately 5,000 children in CBP facilities in the Rio Grande Valley, with perhaps as many as 1,000 at the camp south of Donna, just a few miles from the border with Mexico.

Over the weekend, Democratic congressman Henry Cuellar, whose district includes Donna, released images showing overcrowded conditions at the facility and told Axios the youngsters faced “terrible conditions”.

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