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Republican lawmakers and officials are pushing the Biden administration on the extent to which illegal immigrants are being given baby formula — just as Americans are facing a crushing national shortage.
The U.S. government is legally obligated to care for and feed those in its custody and care, including illegal immigrant children — whether they are being detained at the border by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or, in the case of unaccompanied migrant children (UACs), being cared for by Health and Human Services (HHS).
That would include providing formula for infant children, and it is a standard requirement for government facilities to offer that to migrants — including in prior administrations such as the Trump administration.
However, with an ongoing crisis at the border, and a national shortage at home, some Republicans are linking the border crisis to the issues with formula supply. That border crisis is expected to worsen once Title 42 — a public health order used to quickly expel a majority of migrants due to the COVID-19 crisis — is ended by the Biden administration at the end of the month.
In a letter to Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security, Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., noted that during the 2019 border crisis, Border Patrol spent $230 million on “snacks, diapers and baby formula.”
“With officials anticipating up to 18,000 illegal immigrants crossing our southern border every single day once Title 42 is terminated, it is safe to assume the costly figure will rise even higher,” Banks says. “Sadly, while dealing with the consequences of the Biden administration’s border crisis, Texas is grappling with another crisis: Young parents are unable to feed their children.”
A nearly empty baby formula display shelf is seen at a Target store in Orlando. Stores across the United States have struggled to stock enough baby formula, causing some chains to limit customer purchases. While manufacturers report that they are producing at full capacity, it’s still insufficient to meet the current demand, which has been aggravated by product recalls. ((Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images))
American parents have been grappling with the shortage as supply chain issues have been exacerbated by a recall by a major supplier. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have increased their calls for action, while the White House has put out a fact sheet outlining the measures it is taking to handle the crisis.
Banks asks how much baby formula was purchased in FY 2021 and so far in FY 2022, and how much money was spent in both fiscal years — and whether DHS and HHS have been subjected to the same purchasing limitations as American citizens.
It is not clear how much the Biden administration is currently spending on formula. While the number of migrants coming across the border has increased significantly under its watch, its policies that focus on quickly processing and releasing many migrants through into the country or to sponsors in the case of UACS, have led to reduced detention — and therefore could have somewhat reduced the amount of formula needed by the government.
A CBP spokesperson told Fox News Digital that the agency “takes seriously its legal responsibility to ensure the safety and security of individuals in our custody.”
“Ensuring migrants, including children and infants, in our custody have their basic needs met is in line with this Administration’s commitment to ensuring safe, orderly, and humane processes at our border,” the spokesperson said. “CBP complies with all applicable regulations for the purchase of products used in CBP facilities.”
But some Republicans have directly criticized the administration for providing that formula Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, in a joint statement with National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd, accused Biden of having “turned a blind eye to parents across America who are facing the nightmare of a nationwide baby formula shortage.”
“While mothers and fathers stare at empty grocery store shelves in a panic, the Biden administration is happy to provide baby formula to illegal immigrants coming across our southern border,” the statement said. This is yet another one in a long line of reckless, out-of-touch priorities from the Biden Administration when it comes to securing our border and protecting Americans.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., posted two images contrasting formula supplies at a processing center at the border with scarce shelves in a grocery store.
“This is what America last looks like,” she said.
That criticism has seen pushback from Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler, who said that the controversy was a “ridiculous faux outrage.”
He noted not only the government’s responsibilities for migrant care under the 1997 Flores settlement and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, but also that stocks of formula were kept and provided to migrants during the Trump administration.
“The shortage of baby formula is a serious issue that the administration is seeking to address. But at the same time, the administration cannot be faulted for following the law and providing baby formula to undocumented immigrants,” he said.