Amid formula shortage crisis, Republicans play politics with feeding babies at the border

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GOP lawmakers are politicizing the baby formula shortage with false accusations as President Joe Biden works to ease the problem.

Republican lawmakers on Thursday accused President Joe Biden of prioritizing the babies of detained immigrants over those of American citizens, propagating the false claim that his administration is stockpiling and sending pallets of baby formula to immigrant detention facilities instead of helping restock the empty shelves in stores across the country.

Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL) tweeted a photo of baby food and formula she said was at a migrant detention facility, alongside a photo of empty shelves at a store: "The first photo is from this morning at the Ursula Processing Center at the U.S. border. Shelves and pallets packed with baby formula. The second is from a shelf right here at home. Formula is scarce. This is what America last looks like."

Other Republicans repeated the claim, including Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, who said in statement:

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. 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. ... Our children deserve a president who puts their needs and survival first – not one who gives critical supplies to illegal immigrants before the very people he took an oath to serve.

Experts note that the shortage of baby formula in the United States is a result of supply chain issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic, exacerbated by the recall of tainted formula by Abbott Laboratories, one of the largest formula manufacturers in the United States, and U.S. trade policy that bans or places tariffs on the importation of formula from other countries.

The Abbott recall occurred in February after the FDA said two infants died after consuming formula made in an Abbott plant in Sturgis, Michigan. Reporting in March said that the FDA had found the harmful Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria on surfaces in the Sturgis plant, although Abbott maintains that the bacteria was never found in formula cans. Infections caused by the bacteria are rare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, but it can cause serious blood sepsis or meningitis in newborns and infants with immune disorders.

The cessation of production at the Sturgis plant has left other manufacturers unable to keep up with the resulting demand for baby formula.

While Abbott awaits approval to restart production, Biden held a meeting on Thursday with formula manufacturers and retailers to determine measures that can be taken in the meantime to ease the shortages.

Additional steps announced by Biden on Thursday to handle the shortages include making it easier to import formula and easing the purchasing requirements for families who obtain formula through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children administered by the Department of Agriculture, which the White House says amounts to half of the formula consumed by infants nationwide.

Despite these efforts on the part of the Biden administration, GOP members of Congress have continued to lob false accusations that it is favoring people whom they call "illegal."

"While American families across our nation are struggling to find baby formula, the Biden Administration is shipping pallets of baby formula to the border for ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS! This is OUTRAGEOUS!" Rep. Debbie Lesko of Arizona tweeted

"Joe Biden continues to put America LAST by shipping pallets of baby formula to the southern border as American families face empty shelves. This is unacceptable," tweeted Rep. Elise Stefanik, the New York congresswoman who serves as chair of the House Republican Caucus.

As the Washington Post noted in a "Fact Checker" analysis on Thursday evening, U.S. law requires the actions the Biden administration is taking to feed infants whose parents are detained at the border.

A 1997 Justice Department consent decree and a subsequent ruling in 2015 make clear that the U.S. government has to provide "drinking water and food as appropriate" to minors detained in immigrant processing facilities, a law the Washington Post said even former President Donald Trump followed when in office.

Democrats where aghast at the Republican suggestion that infants should be starved based on their parents' immigration status.

"So if I'm tracking, Elise wants to force mothers to have babies. And then starve the babies to death once they're out of the womb? #ProDeath," Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) tweeted

"#EliseStarvefanik the new leader of the pro starvation caucus," Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) tweeted

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.