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Leaked government documents spotlight Biden's child migrant dilemma

Fresh internal documents from the Department of Health and Human Services show how quickly the number of child migrants crossing the border is overwhelming the administration's stretched resources.

Driving the news: In the week ending March 1, the Border Patrol referred to HHS custody an average of 321 children per day, according to documents obtained by Axios. That's up from a weekly average of 203 in late January and early February — and just 47 per day during the first week of January.


  • The same documents, dated Tuesday, say the shelter system is at 94% occupancy and expected to reach its maximum this month.

Meanwhile, some of President Biden's top officials responsible for immigration policy are planning a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border this weekend, sources tell Axios.

  • The influx of unaccompanied minors is a mushrooming problem for the new president and his policy and social welfare agencies.
  • “A trip is not finalized and the White House continues to work on locking in details and logistics for a potential visit," White House spokesperson Vedant Patel told Axios.
  • Spokespersons for DHS and HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Behind the scenes: HHS has already moved to open overflow shelters and to increase the speed with which it releases children to caretakers already in the U.S.

  • In the week ending March 1, an average of 174 children were released from HHS custody each day. That was up from a weekly average of 90 in late January and early February, according to the documents.
  • Nonetheless, the number of migrants held in Border Patrol custody longer than three days has been rising nearly each day, according to additional documents reviewed by Axios.
  • Kids and teens caught crossing the border without legal guardians are being held in Border Patrol facilities for more than three days, for an average of 77 hours, as CNN first reported.

The big picture: This week, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas insisted the current situation is not yet a crisis. Regardless, it's clear the number of children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border could fast overwhelm government systems, in ways similar to the crises in 2014 and 2019.

  • The uptick comes while the administration continues to use an emergency public health order to quickly deport migrant adults and some families — including asylum seekers.
  • At the same time, the Biden has reversed a Trump administration policy of using the public health order to quickly turn away unaccompanied children.
  • The source who provided the internal Biden administration documents expects to see family migration rise over the next months, as well.

What to watch: Internally, government officials have been sounding alarm bells. As Axios previously reported, DHS is expecting a record number of child migrants this year.

  • HHS has told the White House it will need a 20,000-bed capacity to humanely accommodate them.

Czech Republic expels 18 Russian diplomats over 2014 depot explosion

Czech police on Saturday connected two Russian men suspected of carrying out a poisoning attack in Salisbury, England, with a deadly ammunition depot explosion southeast of the capital, Prague, per Reuters.

Driving the news: Czech officials announced Saturday they're expelling 18 Russian diplomats they accuse of being involved in the blast in Vrbetice, AP notes. Czech police said later they're searching for two men carrying several passports — including two named Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

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Indianapolis mass shooting suspect legally bought 2 guns, police say

The suspected gunman in this week's mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis legally purchased two assault rifles believed to have been used in the attack, police said late Saturday.

Of note: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's statement that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, bought the rifles last July and September comes a day after the FBI said in a statement to news outlets that a "shotgun was seized" from the suspect in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.

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U.S. and China agree to cooperate on climate action, but details remain to be negotiated

Despite an increasingly tense relationship, the U.S. and China agreed Saturday to work together to tackle global climate change, including by "raising ambition" for emissions cuts during the 2020s — a key goal of the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The joint communique released Saturday evening commits the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases to work together to keep the most ambitious temperature target contained in the Paris Climate Agreement viable by potentially taking additional emissions cuts prior to 2030.

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"We couldn't do two things at once": Biden defends not immediately raising refugee cap

President Biden on Saturday sought to explain why he didn't immediately lift the Trump administration's historically low refugee cap.

Driving the news: Several Democrats accused Biden Friday of not fulfilling his pledge to raise the limit after it was announced he'd keep the cap. The White House said later it would be raised by May 15. Biden told reporters Saturday, "We're going to increase the number."

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Children of color in rural areas battle deep health care disparities

Living in the nation's poorest, most rural communities can be a death sentence for African American and Native American children.

Why it matters: Lack of health care and healthy food make Black and indigenous childrenin the nation’s most disadvantaged counties five times as likely to die as children in other areas of the country,the advocacy group Save the Children found after analyzing federal data.

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How telehealth can narrow racial disparities

Data: CDC; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Racial disparities have been a constant problem in maternal health care, from rising death rates to the threat of severe COVID-19 among pregnant women. But now experts are hopeful that telehealth can help narrow those disparities.

Why it matters: It's not a complete solution to the racial barriers women of color face. But some experts are optimistic that telehealth — long-distance health care through videoconferences and other technology — can help reduce those barriers by offering flexibility in appointments and better access to diverse providers.

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Capitol Hill's far right pushes Anglo-Saxon values, European architecture

Multiple far-right House Republicans have begun planning and promoting an America First Caucus aimed at pushing "uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions," Punchbowl News first reported.

The big picture: "The document was being circulated as the GOP is struggling to determine a clear direction as it prepares to try winning back control of the House and Senate in the 2022 elections," AP writes.

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Super Typhoon Surigae rapidly intensifies to a Cat. 5 near Philippines

Super Typhoon Surigae surged in intensity from a Category 1 storm on Friday to a beastly Category 5 monster on Saturday, with maximum sustained winds estimated at 180 mph with higher gusts.

Why it matters: This storm — known as Typhoon Bising in the Philippines — is just the latest of many tropical cyclones to undergo a process known as rapid intensification, a feat that studies show is becoming more common due to climate change.

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