DHS Directs FEMA To Help At Southern Border

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Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Saturday directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support efforts to help unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border.

FEMA will help “to safely receive, shelter, and transfer unaccompanied children” for the next 90 days, the department said.

The move is in response to the surge of unaccompanied children arriving at the southern border, which critics have attributed to President Joe Biden’s change in policy. DHS said violence, poverty, and natural disasters have raged since last spring, prompting a significant increase of encounters at the border. (RELATED: Biden Admin Refuses To Give Data On Unaccompanied Children Detained At Border)

The federal government is working to relocate unaccompanied children from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) care. Children will then be placed with a family member or sponsor until their immigration case is adjudicated, a process that has been complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am grateful for the exceptional talent and responsiveness of the FEMA team,” Mayorkas said.  “I am incredibly proud of the agents of the Border Patrol, who have been working around the clock in difficult circumstances to take care of children temporarily in our care. Yet, as I have said many times, a Border Patrol facility is no place for a child. We are working in partnership with HHS to address the needs of unaccompanied children, which is made only more difficult given the protocols and restrictions required to protect the public health and the health of the children themselves. 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.”

Immigrant children have been detained at a Border Patrol facility in very poor conditions, the AP reported this week. Nonprofit lawyers present at the facilities have reported unsanitary conditions and children sleeping on the floor because there aren’t enough mats.

Facilities are also reportedly overcrowded, with children unable to contact their parents and not able to shower, CNN reported.

Earlier in the week, there was a record-high 3,700 unaccompanied children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection, CNN reported.