“This is not okay, never has been okay, never will be okay – no matter the administration or party,” the progressive icon tweeted on Tuesday.
She added: “It’s only 2 mos into this admin & our fraught, unjust immigration system will not transform in that time. That’s why bold reimagination is so impt. DHS shouldn’t exist, agencies should be reorganized, ICE gotta go, ban for-profit detention, create climate refugee status & more.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., piled on, tweeting: “Multiple administrations have made the callous choice to lock up thousands of children seeking refuge in the United States of America.”
“As long as we see people seeking a better life as ‘aliens’ instead of fellow human beings, our immigration system will continue to fail us,” she added.
Located in Carrizo Springs, Texas, the center is reopening after the Trump administration utilized it amid the migrant crisis in 2019. According to The Washington Post, the facility is being reactivated to accommodate 700 minor teenagers after the coronavirus limited capacity at other facilities.
The news raised additional questions about how President Biden would handle an expected influx of unaccompanied children at the southern border.
Besides decrying “kids in cages” under Trump, Biden also reportedly told lawmakers in 2019 that he would end child migrant detention. It appeared as though with this new facility that the administration was continuing the practice of detaining children even after rescinding a Trump-era policy that led to family separation.
On Monday, a White House spokesperson told Fox News: “The President’s approach is to deal with immigration comprehensively, fairly and humanely. The policy of this administration is not to expel unaccompanied children who arrive at our borders. The Border Patrol will continue to transfer unaccompanied children to the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement so they may be properly cared for in appropriate shelters, consistent with their best interest.”
When asked for details on whether children are detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the White House referred Fox News to that agency for additional details. CBP did not respond to a request for comment.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki similarly told Fox News on Tuesday that the administration’s policy was focused on not expelling unaccompanied children. “The process, how it works, is that Customs and Border control continue to transfer unaccompanied children to the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement,” she said.
Former Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli told Fox News on Monday that any time CBP forcibly held children in custody, they were detained.
“If they’re not free to leave, it’s detention, regardless of the nature of the facility,” said Cuccinelli, who recently started as a visting fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Tuesday that the U.S. immigration system was built on a “carceral framework.”
“Our immigration system is built on a carceral framework,” she said. “It’s no accident that challenging how we approach both these issues are considered ‘controversial’ stances. They require reimagining our relationship to each other and challenging common assumptions we take for granted.”
The White House did not immediately respond when asked about Ocasio-Cortez’s comments.
Fox News’ Peter Doocy and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.