Two photos shared by Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Florida) in a tweet are drawing the ire of some social media users as many parents in the U.S. deal with the effects of an ongoing baby formula shortage. The first photo reportedly shows a shelf stocked with baby formula at a detention center for undocumented immigrants, while the second shows bare store shelves.
“The first photo is from this morning at the Ursula Processing Center at the U.S. border. Shelves and pallets packed with baby formula,” Cammack wrote in the viral tweet. “The second is from a shelf right here at home. Formula is scarce. This is what America looks like.”
In a video posted on Facebook, Cammack claims the photo at the detention center was sent to her by a Border Patrol agent.
Several VERIFY viewers, including Kim and Marietta, also reached out to ask if baby formula is being shipped to the U.S.-Mexico border amid the shortage.
Is the U.S. government providing formula to migrant babies at the border?
Yes, the U.S. government has provided formula to migrant babies at the border since 1997, as required by federal law.
WHAT WE FOUND
The federal government is required by law to provide adequate food and water, including baby formula, for migrant children under the Flores Settlement Agreement, which was approved by a federal district court in California in 1997. The Child Welfare League of America explains that the legal agreement “outlines certain protection for immigrant children while in U.S. custody,” including a provision that prohibits the detention of children for more than 20 days.
As of May 11, there were about 8,800 migrant children in federal custody, data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) show.
Under the Flores Settlement Agreement, facilities must also provide access to “drinking water and food as appropriate,” according to a briefing document prepared by the National Center for Youth Law and other legal experts.
When asked during a press conference about the photo of baby formula at the U.S.-Mexico border, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also pointed to the Flores Settlement Agreement.
“It requires adequate food and elsewhere specifies age appropriateness, hence formula for kids under the age of 1,” Psaki said.
Psaki added that every presidential administration has followed the law since it was implemented in 1997.
“It is the law, but we believe that when children and babies…are crossing the border with a family member that providing them formula is morally right, and so we certainly support the implementation of it,” she added.
Christen Linke Young, deputy assistant to President Biden for Health and Veterans Affairs, also told VERIFY that “the federal government is providing food to babies that are held in federal custody, consistent with those federal requirements.”
In a statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which oversees Border Patrol, said in part that it “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. CBP complies with all applicable regulations for the purchase of products used in CBP facilities,” the statement continues.
CBP was unable to confirm the authenticity of the photo tweeted by Cammack. VERIFY reached out a spokesperson for Cammack for more information about how the photos were obtained, but has not yet received a response at the time of publishing.
Experts previously told VERIFY that the baby formula shortage, due in part to supply chain issues, has recently been exacerbated by recalls of several formula products. In response to the shortage, stores like CVS and Target are limiting the amount of formula products families can purchase.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden’s administration has announced steps it plans to take to address the nationwide baby formula shortage after criticism from lawmakers.
Biden discussed with executives from Gerber and Reckitt how they could increase production, and talked with leaders from Walmart and Target about how to restock shelves and improve access to formula, the White House said. The administration also plans to work with trading partners in Mexico, Chile, Ireland and the Netherlands to increase imports of baby formula.
Sarah Beckman with VERIFY sister station WCNC contributed to this report.