Via America’s Lawyer: Unaccompanied minors are flocking to the southern border as the Biden administration deals with the highest immigration rate in almost twenty years. RT correspondent Brigida Santos joins Mike Papantonio to discuss how private prison contractors are eager to claim responsibility over thousands of migrant detainees.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             Unaccompanied minors are crossing the border at higher pace this year, leaving the Biden administration scrambling to rebuild whatever they’ve created in the last several months. I have Brigida Santos joining me now to talk about this story. Brigida, the, you know, it’s that whole thing, you know, Biden comes into office and says Trump was awful. We have to agree with a lot of that. But the cameras, the reporting what’s happening on the border. It’s not only the same thing, it almost looks worse. What’s causing the surge of unaccompanied migrant children coming to the US besides Biden’s invitation, what’s happening down there?

Brigida Santos:                   Well, the current surge is partially due to the Biden administration’s reversal of immigration policies that were set under the previous administration. Unaccompanied minors at the border are no longer expelled from the country as they were previously and instead they’re processed at border facilities and transferred to shelters managed by health and human services, which ultimately places children with a US sponsor. Now homeland security reports that in 80% of cases, the sponsor is a family member and in half of those cases, that family member is a parent or legal guardian. So they’re coming here to be with family. But the extra flow plus pandemic related health and safety protocols are unfortunately slowing everything down. So border patrol facilities are now detaining children beyond the 72 hour legal limit and we’re starting to see photos of that emerging.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. Well, how has the department of homeland security dealing with this incredible increase of child migration? What’s, what, what are they doing that’s different? If you, if you follow this story, it almost sounds like their right to do much has been, has been pulled back. What, what’s happening as this story develops?

Brigida Santos:                   Well, DHS is scrambling. The number of migrant children detained at the Southern US border has tripled in two weeks. And despite the additional risks of the pandemic, shelters for migrant children have now been instructed to return to full capacity. The Pentagon has also approved a request to house migrant children at two military facilities in Southern Texas. DHS is also reportedly setting up additional facilities in Arizona and Florida and soon child migrants may be held in facilities owned or operated by for-profit prison companies. Homeland security and immigrations and customs enforcement have long outsourced the country’s immigration detention system. So this is not something that would be outlandish. As of January 2020, 81% of people in ICE custody nationwide were held in facilities owned or operated by private prison corporations. Now in January, president Biden did sign an executive order directing the department of justice, not to renew contracts with private prison companies, but that order does not apply to other federal agencies like DHS or ICE. And according to the Intercept, at least three private companies have now posted job listings related to a child detention center in Florida that has a history of abuse. So this is very troubling.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, not only abuse. You, you see a lot of these prison companies, it’s, they’ve got a long history of failure. That’s the problem. They’re overcharging the government. They’re under-staffing people. They’re not even complying with the basic, basic parameters of what it should look like, and we continue to allow it anyway and now, now we’re, they’re just inviting more of them in. I mean, come on in and now take care of the children. What about the overall migration at the border? Is there an overall increase this year or is that, is, is, are those just figures that we’re hearing from folks who have an interest in stopping migration?

Brigida Santos:                   Yeah, of course. We’re not just seeing an increase in unaccompanied minors. We’re seeing an overall surge in migration. The US is now on track to encounter more migrants at the Southwest border than it has in two decades. Some of the reasons for the overall surge include the seasonal influx, climate disasters like hurricanes in Latin America, the war on drugs and US trade policies that have advanced American corporate interests at the expense of civilians in Latin America. Problems at the border have existed for a very long time and both political parties have failed completely to solve them.

Mike Papantonio:             Brigida, thank you for joining me. It sounds like it’s something that Biden better get busy with. I don’t know that sending Kamala Harris down there to take all the heat for this is the right thing to do, but we’ll see as this develops. Thank you for joining me. Okay.

Brigida Santos:                   Anytime, Mike.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.