Why is the Red Cross AWOL at the Border?
As other charities rush to help immigrant families, the aid organization told The Daily Beast: ‘The U.S. federal government has the ultimate responsibility for border control.’
As the border crisis reaches a fever pitch in Texas, one humanitarian aid group is apparently declining to help immigrants and their children.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, the American Red Cross said the feds are solely accountable for the migrant children who are being separated from their parents because of the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
“The U.S. federal government has the ultimate responsibility for border control and immigration, including the current situation on the US border involving families and unaccompanied minors,” the Red Cross stated. “All parties concerned have stated they want to resolve the situation in a way where children are not separated from their parents, and we are hopeful that both the President and the Congress can work together to do that.”
Over the last few days, people took to Twitter to demand the Red Cross set up safe havens for immigrants and check on the welfare of undocumented children—who’ve been pictured behind chain-link fences at Border Patrol facilities.
Indeed, hundreds of children are caged in an old warehouse in McAllen, Texas, which functions as U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s largest detention center. On Sunday, reporters were allowed to tour the facility but not take photos or interview detainees, the AP reported. Instead, the agency supplied images of their own.
Nearly 2,000 children have been taken from their mothers and fathers at the border since attorney general Jeff Sessions instituted the policy six weeks ago.
In response to queries from The Daily Beast, the nonprofit stated that its aid workers don’t “regularly have access” to detention facilities for asylum seekers.
“In the past, the American Red Cross has been asked by the authorities to provide services for migrant children and families, and we have inquired to see if we can assist in any way with regard to this current situation,” the statement continued. “But the federal government has control of these facilities, and the American Red Cross does not regularly have access to places of detention for migrants.”
Meanwhile, other groups and even individuals are heeding the call for help.One California couple's Facebook fundraiser on has amassed a whopping $5 million for a Texas nonprofit that provides legal services for migrants. They said the viral photo of a 2-year-old Honduran girl crying as her mother was detained spurred them into action.
And the Catholic Charities are running respite centers to take in families released from detention with nowhere to turn.
Elsewhere, the Texas Civil Rights Project is enlisting volunteers who speak Spanish Mam, Q'eqchi' or K'iche' and have paralegal or legal assistant experience who can help take statements from affected families.
On Tuesday, Trump reinforced his anti-immigrant rhetoric, tweeting that migrants were threatening to “infest our country, like MS-13.”
UPDATE: After this article published, a Red Cross representative reached out to The Daily Beast to note that "every charity plays its own role, and we often partner with one another. In this case, our role is to work with the federal government authorities who have responsibility for border control and immigration to offer our assistance—but without that permission, we do not have access to these children or the places of detention."
"By way of comparison, in 2014—at the request of the federal government—we supported the urgent humanitarian needs of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing U.S. borders. We provided blankets and hygiene kits to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for use by children, and provided assistance placing phone calls to the children’s families. We are willing to provide the same or similar services in this situation."