Biden administration sending FEMA to border amid influx of migrant children

The Biden administration is sending the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the U.S.’s southern border to care for unaccompanied migrant children amid a recent influx.

The Department of Homeland Security said in press release on Saturday that FEMA will be supporting a 90-day effort to receive, shelter and transfer unaccompanied minors that cross the border.

“I am grateful for the exceptional talent and responsiveness of the FEMA team,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “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.”

The effort comes as Biden deals with a record number of unaccompanied minors that are crossing the southern border.

CBS News reported on Tuesday that over 3,200 children are stuck in Border Patrol cells for migrant adults, and nearly half have exceeded CBP’s three-day deadline to be moved into a proper shelter.

The Administration has said that it wants to remove the unaccompanied minors from U.S. Customs and Border Protection into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, and to place them with a family member or sponsor until their case is adjudicated.

Mayorkas continued, however, to state that those who enter the U.S. through "irregular channels" will be apprehended and returned. 

"It is never safe to come to the United States through irregular channels, and this is particularly true during a pandemic,” 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.”

The White House has faced criticism over its handling over the influx of migrants. While President Biden has moved away from the harsh practices adopted under former President Trump, the surge of migrants, specifically unaccompanied minors, has left the administration unable to process the detainees and move them to a safer, more sanitary place. The process has been further complicated by the pandemic, with social distancing restrictions in place. 

A recent CNN exposé described detention centers, overseen CBP, as “akin to jail cells and not intended for kids.” 

“We don’t want them to be in the CBP facilities,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

“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.”

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