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More than 700 kids held in Border Patrol custody without their parents

More than 700 children who crossed from Mexico into the United States without their parents were in Border Patrol custody as of Sunday, according to an internal Customs and Border Protection document obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The current backup is yet another sign of a brewing crisis for President Biden — and a worsening dilemma for these vulnerable children. Biden is finding it's easier to talk about preventing warehousing kids at the southern border than solving the problem.


  • Making matters worse, border crossings usually peak in the spring, and it's only February.

Behind the scenes: Of the more than 700 kids waiting to be transferred to shelters overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 200 had been held in these Border Patrol stations for more than 48 hours.

  • Nine had been detained for longer than the agreed-upon limit of 72 hours, according to the internal document, which timestamped the data current as of 8:15 a.m. on Feb. 21.

During Wednesday's White House media briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged some kids had been held four or five days — or more.

  • She blamed some of the delays on the bad weather that shut down Texas last week, saying some long-term shelters "did not have power and were not in a place where they had the capacity to take in these kids and do it safely."
  • She also pushed back — hard — on an equivalency between the current and past administrations' handling of children, who generally come from countries in Central America, at the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • While president, Donald Trump was criticized for separating children from their parents. That policy is no longer in place, although rising numbers of children arriving now are unaccompanied, meaning they are detained alone anyway.

What they're saying: "We have a couple of options: We can send them back home. ... We can quickly transfer them from CPB to these HHS-run facilities. ... We can put them with families and sponsors without any vetting," Psaki said. "We've chosen the middle option."

During the surge in 2019, government watchdogs found severe overcrowding and concerning sanitation, health and safety issues at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol intake facilities, which are special concerns for children.

  • CBP is only meant to have short-term custody of migrants before adults and families are transferred to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and unaccompanied children are transferred to HHS.
  • Nonetheless, in January, at least 179 migrant minors spent more than three days in CBP custody, as well as at least 48 kids in December, CBS News' Camilo Montoya-Galvez reported this week.

What to watch: Coronavirus protocols have also significantly lowered the number of children who can be held at the longer-term HHS shelters.

  • The Biden administration has already been forced to open a temporary influx shelter in Texas for child migrants, which also has the capacity to add tent-like structures.

More than 400 migrant kids were referred to HHS shelters just on Tuesday, according to one administration official.

  • That's an eye-catching number, especially compared to the 30-day referral average at the peak of the 2019 crisis — which was 294.

Bottom line: The Biden administration halted the use of an emergency health order that had allowed the Trump administration to quickly expel migrant children who crossed the border.

  • Some experts now say that Biden's policy reversal is part of the reason for the recent increase in unaccompanied children arriving at the border.

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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