Republicans criticized the Biden administration on Thursday for providing food to infants detained in its custody — effectively suggesting the babies should be starved because of their immigration status.
“The Biden administration has been sending pallets of baby formula for illegal mothers and their babies while American mothers and babies cannot find baby formula,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said at a news conference. “This is completely unacceptable, and this needs to end now.”
“Baby formula should go to Americans before illegals,” Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) wrote on Twitter. “This should not have to be said.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) accused the administration of giving “critical supplies to illegal immigrants before the very people he took an oath to serve.”
Greene referenced photos of baby formula at a border facility, likely referring to a Washington Examiner article about immigrants detained at the border receiving baby formula amid a nationwide shortage. Nehls also tweeted a link to the article. The Examiner refers to the immigrants as a “lucky group” and cites posts by Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) about “thousands and thousands of containers of baby formula” being sent to the border. Cammack said she received a photo of the deliveries from a border agent.
Cammack called on people to demand the Biden administration “take the baby formula that they have basically siphoned out of the supply chain and put it back in the damn stores for American kids.”
The formula shortage is a crisis. Infants need either breast milk or formula for nutrition until they are at least 1 year old, and breast milk isn’t always an option. Doctors recommend against diluting milk or formula, switching to cow’s milk or making homemade formula. So the need for Americans to access baby formula is very, very real.
But babies in U.S. government custody need sustenance, too, and their parents don’t have the option of leaving detention to buy supplies. If the government didn’t provide food to the babies in its custody, they would starve.
The baby formula shortage has become a popular way for Republicans to attack President Joe Biden, although few lawmakers from either party have offered actual solutions to the issue. Immigration is a popular attack line, too, so it’s not much of a surprise that the right would blame immigrant babies for stealing food from American ones.
The right has demonized undocumented immigrants for years, and the U.S. has a disturbing record of neglecting or mistreating children in its care. In one of the most infamous examples, former President Donald Trump intentionally split children from their parents in an attempt to dissuade immigrants from coming to the United States. For years, Republican lawmakers have blocked efforts to grant legal status to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as kids. Republican politicians have suggested immigrant detention centers, including ones that lock up children, are too nice.
The right’s claims about baby formula for undocumented kids fit into the narrative that Democrats are encouraging unauthorized immigration by not being harsher to undocumented people. Stephen Miller, a former senior adviser to Trump who championed many of that administration’s harshest immigration policies, said the Biden administration was “diverting scarce formula to subsidize mass illegal immigration.”
Cammack insisted that her screed against baby formula for undocumented infants was actually part of a pro-children agenda, and she accused the Biden administration of helping cartels smuggle immigrant kids by being insufficiently tough on the border.
“It’s not these kids’ fault,” she said. “My heart breaks for these kids.”
Just not enough to let them eat.