“‘He won over everyone with his smile, fearlessness and determination worthy of a real hero,' the statement said. It is unclear why the boy was unaccompanied.”
The story of an 11-year-old boy, who was put on a train to Slovakia by his parents so he could get out of Ukraine, was celebrated by Slovakian authorities who called him a “hero of the night.”
The boy is lucky he was not sent to Texas.
In Texas, the attorney general, Ken Paxton, is fighting to force the federal government to expel unaccompanied children who arrive at our border. To be clear, Paxton wants refugee children to be immediately expelled. No access to asylum. No opportunity to locate relatives within the United States who may house them. Expel them. Period.
A federal court, also located in Texas, agreed with Paxton on Friday, and ordered the Biden administration to once again include unaccompanied children under the Title 42 expulsion policy.
What we refer to as Title 42 is a series of orders issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that claims authority under Title 42 of the US legal code to halt the migration of people from a country where an infectious disease is present. The disease in question was COVID-19, of course, which in March of 2020 was already present in the United States - indeed, at a far higher rate of infection than Central America or Mexico. With the implementation of Title 42, practically all asylum processing was suspended. People picked up between ports of entry were simply expelled. People arriving at ports of entry who sought asylum, denied entry.
Since the first Title 42 order was issued in March of 2020, there have been 1.6 million expulsions, involving at least 1 million people (as many as 500,000 expulsions represent people who tried to cross the border more than once). Most of these people have been expelled within two hours of being encountered by Border Patrol. While certainly not all were seeking asylum, even those that were, had no chance to make their case. The only humanitarian relief possible under Title 42 comes from a self-declared fear of torture, and even then, the required screening has not been uniformly granted.
Until Biden became president, Title 42 expulsions included unaccompanied children. Between March of 2020 and January of 2021, at least 15,000 unaccompanied children were expelled under Title 42. In October of 2020, a federal court issued a temporary injunction against the expulsion of children. However, when the case was finally decided in January of 2021, the court sided with the government, allowing the expulsion of children to continue.
When Biden became president, he declared that the United States would no longer expel unaccompanied children under Title 42. In February of 2021, the CDC issued new rules formally exempting children from expulsion under Title 42. As Title 42 was an administrative order, implemented by the Department of Homeland Security, this should have been the final word. The CDC implemented the order with no consultation (something that did NOT brother Paxton at the time), certainly it could modify the order. End of story. Right?
In April 2021, Texas sued the federal government, claiming that the administration had failed to consider the impact on Texas of the change in policy, and had not followed appropriate procedures in bringing this part of the policy to a close. The case was briefly suspended when Title 42 was re-implemented in July, but the inclusion of the exemption for children in an August update, led Paxton to re-introduce its suit against the Biden administration in September.
Paxton is clearly not motivated by concern for public health. Paxton has routinely sued cities and counties in Texas to block mask mandates and with Governor Abbott and the Texas Board of Education, has supported insane policies forbidding schools to mandate basic COVID-19 protections - including requiring masks, and parental notification of positive tests.
He is also not motivated by concern for the children involved. On Friday, Paxton tweeted that the ruling was actually a win for “Texas & children - loss for Biden & cartels!” His spin is that this ruling is going to somehow slow down a “wave of smuggling.” It is not clear how. Paxton who has been posturing about trafficking for years now, has not actually done anything about it. Despite getting the Texas legislature to quadruple the budget for addressing trafficking in Texas, for example, Paxton's office failed to deliver a single trafficking conviction in 2020. Not. One. Conviction.
All Paxton is doing is waging a war against the Biden administration. As a result of Paxton's efforts, Texas has led the charge in blocking a temporary deportation moratorium, and forcing the Biden administration to re-implement the Migration Protection Protocols (“Remain in Mexico”). Paxton is now using refugee kids to score political points during what has proved a tough primary season for him. He is being challenged - from the right.
Of course, Texas politics are national politics. Paxton is cut from the same cloth as Trump, a brand that still sells - and not just in Texas. Indeed, this week thirteen Republican members of Congress visited the Del Rio border crossing to once again talk about how the Biden administration supports open borders and is otherwise “doing nothing.” Reality has long since left the immigration debate in the United States. People believe what they want to. And Paxton and Trump are prime examples of the result: Substantively vacuous posturing, that nevertheless pleases the right wing algorithms dropping racist vitriol onto news feeds across the internet.
What this means is that the kids who have suffered through lengthy journeys, and grave dangers to reach our borders will once again be summarily expelled unless Biden fights and wins an appeal.
That an elected official in this country sees the summary expulsion of refugee children as “good politics,” however, should frighten us all.
UPDATE: The Biden administration announced late Friday that it would end Title 42 for unaccompanied children.