Texas Gov. Greg Abbott slams Biden Administration for providing formula to immigrants amid shortage

Under CBP guidelines, facilities are supposed to have formula, diapers, baby wipes

Baby formula is displayed on the shelves of a grocery store in Carmel, Ind., Tuesday, May 10, 2022. Parents across the U.S. are scrambling to find baby formula because supply disruptions and a massive safety recall have swept many leading brands off store shelves. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) (Michael Conroy, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Gov. Greg Abbott criticized the Biden Administration for providing baby formula to the children of immigrants amid a nationwide shortage, saying Texas kids “deserve to be put first.”

The baby formula shortage, caused by supply disruptions and a recent safety recall, has resulted in depleted shelves, causing parents to turn to online groups to swap and sell to each other to keep their babies fed.

On Thursday, the issue turned partisan with Tweets from Abbott and fellow Republican lawmaker Rep. Kat Cammack, of Florida.

Cammack said that the federal government has sent “pallets packed with baby formula” to immigrants in detention centers on the border, and included an image of a stocked shelf at a processing center in McAllen.

A few hours later, Abbott Tweeted that it was “shameful” that the U.S. has provided the children of immigrants with formula.

Part of his statement read:

“Children are our most vulnerable, precious Texans and deserve to be put first. Yet, President Biden has 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.”

But under guidelines from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, at-risk immigrants in detention, like juveniles and pregnant women, must have access to food including baby food and formula, according to the National Standards on Transport, Escort, Detention and Search.

The rule applies to infants born in CBP custody or prior to CBP custody, according to the Policy Statement and Required Actions Regarding Pregnant, Postpartum, Nursing Individuals, and Infants in Custody.

This is a screenshot from the Policy Statement and Required Actions Regarding Pregnant, Postpartum, Nursing Individuals, and Infants in Custody. Read the full guidelines here.

A screenshot from the Policy Statement and Required Actions Regarding Pregnant, Postpartum, Nursing Individuals, and Infants in Custody. (CBP)

Abbott’s statement didn’t disclose if Texas is taking action against the Biden Administration regarding the formula.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden stepped up his administration’s response to the shortage.

The president discussed with executives from Gerber and Reckitt how they could increase production and how his administration could help, and talked with leaders from Walmart and Target about how to restock shelves and address regional disparities in access to formula, the White House said.

The administration plans to monitor possible price gouging and work with trading partners in Mexico, Chile, Ireland and the Netherlands on imports, even though 98% of baby formula is domestically made.

The problem is the result of supply chain disruptions and a safety recall, and has had a cascade of effects: Retailers are limiting what customers can buy, and doctors and health workers are urging parents to contact food banks or physicians’ offices, in addition to warning against watering down formula to stretch supplies or using online DIY recipes.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Democrat from San Antonio criticized Abbott for his statement.

“During this time of crisis, leaders should be putting partisanship aside to help families in need. Instead, some elected officials — including Texas Governor Greg Abbott — are using this formula shortage as another opportunity to attack immigrants. As they well know, the federal government is legally and morally required to feed migrant children in U.S. custody. Migrant children are not causing this formula shortage. Attempts by politicians to blame migrants for this crisis are callous and shameful,” Castro said.

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About the Authors:

Rebecca Salinas joined KSAT in the fall of 2019. Her skills include content management, engagement and reporting.