Biden deploying emergency officials to border to deal with rise in child migrants – despite insisting there is no ‘crisis’
Alejandro Mayorkas, the Department of Homeland Security secretary, announced in a press release on Saturday evening that he would be sending Fema to the border “to help receive, shelter and transport the children” over the next 90 days.
“I am grateful for the exceptional talent and responsiveness of the Fema team,” Mr Mayorkas said. “Our goal is to ensure that unaccompanied children are transferred to HHS as quickly as possible, consistent with legal requirements and in the best interest of the children.”
A record number of unaccompanied migrant children have crossed the country’s southern border in recent weeks.
More than 3,200 children were stuck in Border Patrol cells with more than half already exceeding the three-day deadline for when they need to be placed in a proper shelter, CBS News reported on Tuesday.
In total, about 8,500 teens and children were living in shelters run under the Human and Health Services (HHS), but unaccompanied minors were arriving at quicker rates than officials could manage within the current system. Lawyers for these children have indicated in recent days that the shelters have become terribly overcrowded while Covid-19 continues to circulate.
The Biden administration has rolled back some of the more restrictive immigration policies that were previously put in place under former president Donald Trump.
The administration has indicated it would remove unaccompanied migrant children from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and instead put them in the care of HHS officials. These children would then be placed with family members or sponsors until their case was heard.
But Mr Mayorkas has made it clear that anyone arriving through “irregular channels” would eventually return to their home country.
“It is never safe to come to the United States through irregular channels, and this is particularly true during a pandemic,” Mr Mayorkas said. “To effectively protect both the health and safety of migrants and our communities from the spread of Covid-19, individuals apprehended at the border continue to be denied entry and are returned.”
Fema officials would help HHS “at every available option to quickly expand physical capacity for appropriate lodging”, according to a DHS statement. The agency would also work “to provide food, water and basic medical care” to unaccompanied migrant children.
The Biden administration has faced a backlash in recent days for the influx of migrant children at the border and how unprepared officials have been to manage the increase. People have called on the administration to declare the situation a “crisis”.
Although Mr Biden has moved his administration away from harsher immigration policies that were seen under the Trump administration, they have still struggled to find sanitary and safe places to hold migrant children who crossed the border. The coronavirus pandemic has only further exacerbated the situation.
“We don’t want them to be in the CBP facilities,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday when asked about the situation.
“We want them to be in shelters as quickly as possible and ultimately in families and homes where their applications can be processed. But we’re looking to expedite the way we vet families and sponsor homes as well.”
Fema was previously sent to the US-Mexico border in 2014 under the Obama administration to address a rise in migrants crossing.
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