Sometime in the overnight hours between March 14 and 15, in Midland, Texas, 500 unaccompanied minors who were taken into custody by Customs and Border Protection were bused into a “man camp” originally designed for oil workers to relieve overcrowding at other facilities.
The mayor of the town wasn’t notified, according to KOSA-TV. Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott says he only received word the day before the movement happened, he told Fox News. Then the mayor and a Midland County official said they contacted federal agencies, and were told, essentially, “We will circle back.”
No one in a position of authority seemed particularly happy when the news first broke, in other words. In the days since, the residents of Midland have also begun to grumble. Or, in some cases, do a bit more than grumble.
The U.K. Daily Mail spoke with three Midland residents, two who were unhappy about the nearly 500 minors, aged 12 to 17, being detained in the facility and one who supported the decision. Shon Crabtree, 42, who lives across from the camp, seemed the most unhappy with the move.
“They have doctors, chefs, three square meals a day, they play soccer all day. They are living better than us. I see them in new clothing, they line up for their meals three times a day, and then play and watch TV,” Crabtree said in the interview, published Wednesday.
The Daily Mail, which called Crabtree “clearly disgruntled” with the decision (that much will become clear), said “President Biden is a piece of s***. I blame him for all of this.” (Crabtree, unsurprisingly, was a Donald Trump voter.)
Crabtree mentioned, among other things, the lack of privacy due to the increased security around the camp.
“The lights are shining through our windows and the sound of the generators running all night makes it hard to sleep,” Crabtree said.
“And there is zero privacy, the cops generally sit right there in my front driveway, it feels like you are being watched and monitored 24/7. They have three different branches of police over there, Homeland Security, Border Patrol, and the state police. Who knows what they dug up into our lives? You just feel violated.”
For Crabtree, the stresses of the situation involved the possibility of COVID-19 infection and crime. The camp has already reported a 10 percent COVID-19 positivity rate and one child has been hospitalized. The facility has since stopped accepting new migrants.
On COVID: “These kids interact with the federal officers who then interact with us. We are being put in danger,” Crabtree told the Daily Mail.
On crime, despite a 10-foot high fence, Crabtree told the Daily Mail that “I’m worried about some of them escaping and coming to my house and holding my family hostage until they get what they want or taking a vehicle. We are scared.”
He told the newspaper he was afraid, given the Central American provenance of the migrants, some of them may be with MS-13 or other gangs.
His wife, he adds, “works from home and keeps the blinds in the front windows shut all day long.”
Crabtree and others were also concerned with the money being used to rent out the camp by the federal government. Crabtree quoted a $33 million figure for the Midland camp; while his source for that figure was unclear, the Biden administration is spending over $86 million on one program alone for hotel rooms to alleviate overcrowding at detention facilities due to the border crisis.
The camp was built in 2012 by a workforce-housing company called Cotton Logistics.
On Cotton Logistics’ website, amenities listed for the camp are “kitchen & dining facility, hot & cold meal service, 24-hour snack & beverage service, an indoor recreation facility, a billiards & lounge area, a theater with stadium-style reclining seating, a state-of-the-art workout facility, an outdoor pavilion, fire pits & covered decks, a basketball court, laundry facility, daily housekeeping, full size wardrobe, flat-screen TV with DVD Player and cable, [and an] individual heating and cooling system.”
Obviously, not all of these will be used with detainees the same way they would be with oil industry workers. However, the Daily Mail quoted another neighbor who has knowledge of the facility and how it’s being used, but chose to remain anonymous.
“With the downturn of the economy the ‘man camp’ was empty. So when they were offered millions by the feds to house immigrant children, Cotton Logistics jumped at the chance,” the neighbor said.
“They are getting paid millions by the government to provide for the minor children. Most of the people around here aren’t too happy with what’s going on. They think it’s President Biden’s way of saying ‘F you’ to the people of Texas for voting for Trump.”
The individual said the unaccompanied minors “are living luxury. I’m sure where they are living now is 100 times better than where they have ever lived in before.”
There were issues with potable water and septic, the neighbor added, but “even with all of these problems it’s not too shabby of a place to stay, it’s comparable to any nice hotel. Those kids won’t go without. I’m sure they are living better than they have ever lived before in their life, all on the dime of the American taxpayer.”
The Daily Mail quoted one Midland resident who wasn’t opposed to the “man camp” being used to house unaccompanied minors who came across the border.
“I think it’s a good idea to house these kids. They deserve to have a chance at a good life. Who knows what horrible conditions they were facing in their own country?” said Anthony Whetstone, 53, who the newspaper said rents next door to Crabtree. “We are fortunate here in America.”
But that didn’t necessarily appear to be captured sentiment around town.
There are two things to note here. The first is that, if these kids “are living luxury” in Midland, their experience isn’t the norm, or even close to it.
There’s a reason the Biden administration isn’t giving tours of any of the detention facilities on the southern border, particularly those with unaccompanied minors. Here are some of the pictures that have been released from temporary overflow facilities:
“Exclusive photos from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporary overflow facility in Donna, Texas, reveal the crowded, makeshift conditions at the border as the government's longer-term child shelters and family detention centers fill up.”https://t.co/WJnkV4zBFX pic.twitter.com/7XqagoPwak
— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) March 22, 2021
NEW: Answering mounting calls for more transparency (and leaked photos by Rep. Cuellar’s office), CBP releases photos of its processing centers for minors in Donna & El Paso. @USATODAY pic.twitter.com/Fw93qMc22d
— Rick Jervis (@MrRJervis) March 23, 2021
Second, however the sentiments of Midland residents might be viewed in the mainstream media or among coastal liberals, the fact is they’re the ones who are living with the consequences of decisions being made in Washington. The point isn’t to present these opinions as credible or creditable. It’s to put a spotlight on how the people of Midland are experiencing the crisis.
First, this was a facility meant to house oil workers, earning paychecks that would almost certainly be spent around town, bringing money to Midland businesses. It wasn’t meant for 12- to-17-year-old detainees, living at taxpayer expense in the middle of the COVID pandemic.
Second, the crisis that has them there is entirely of Joe Biden’s own making.
Biden should have known, from the moment he was declared the president-elect, that a president who promised a 180-degree turn from Donald Trump’s immigration policies would have to deal with, from the outset of his administration, a deluge of migration from a dam breaking — and in the midst of a pandemic, to boot.
No one on Biden’s team seems to have realized, before or in the immediate aftermath of Election Day, that this would be a problem. Instead, it seemed that only as Inauguration Day approached that Biden officials began to message that “now is not the time to make the journey” and that migrants “need to understand they’re not going to be able to come into the United States immediately.”
That doesn’t seem to have worked.
Apart from the COVID-19 pandemic, the illegal immigration surge has provided Biden with the first major crisis germane to his administration. On the messaging front, what he’s done is refuse to admit it’s a crisis, blamed it on the weather and insisted most migrants are being sent back when they aren’t.
On the actions front, most of the effort seems to have gone into triage — situations like Midland, Texas, for instance, or the temporary overflow facilities the administration won’t allow reporters to see. I’m going to imagine most of America isn’t as viscerally angry as the two individuals interviewed by the Daily Mail were.
What they can see, however, is just how badly President Biden’s administration is handling its first crisis.