Biden Administration Directs FEMA to Assist Shelter Migrant Kids

WASHINGTON – Biden’s government is instructing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help process an increasing number of children and teenagers who have occupied detention centers on the southwest border as the treatment of young migrants has come under increasing criticism.

FEMA, which usually provides financial assistance during natural disasters, will help find shelters and provide “food, water and basic health care” to thousands of young migrants, said Michael Hart, a spokesman for the agency, in a statement.

The government also urged Homeland Security officials to volunteer to “care for and support unaccompanied minors” held in border prisons run by Customs and Border Guard.

Previous administrations also sent FEMA to help migrants cross borders. However, the Biden administration cannot use disaster relief to assist in processing migrants in Texas after crossing the border without the consent of Republican Greg Abbott. The states must apply to the federal government for funding.

Renae Eze, an Abbott spokeswoman, said the Biden administration’s proposal to leverage disaster relief for Texas doesn’t just offer testing and unconditional funding.

“It forces Texas to devote our resources to the federal government’s job of border security,” she said. “The federal government alone has the responsibility to cross, review and quarantine illegal immigrants who may have Covid.”

Around 4,000 young people were in customs and border protection facilities this week, more than the roughly 2,600 children and young people who were detained in such detention centers in June 2019. Troy Miller, the acting commissioner for customs and border protection, said last week that 9,457 children, including teenagers, were detained at the border without parents in February, up from more than 5,800 in January.

The Biden government has so far failed to quickly process the young migrants and move them to emergency shelters managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, where they will be held until the government matches them with a sponsor. The administration has made efforts to expand the capacity of these shelters, which have held around 8,500 migrants this week. Biden’s government recently ordered shelters to return the children to normal capacity despite the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Mark Weber, a spokesperson for the agency, the Department of Health and Human Services opened a temporary facility for children and adolescents on Sunday in Midland, Texas to help migrants out of the border facilities. The administration had already opened another temporary facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas.

“A border guard is not a place for a child,” said Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security minister, in a statement on Saturday. “Our goal is to have unaccompanied children brought to HHS as soon as possible.”

Mr Abbott and other Republicans have characterized the rise in border crossings as a direct result of Mr Biden’s aim to roll back President Donald J. Trump’s restrictive immigration policies. But Mr Biden has maintained a pandemic-pandemic emergency rule that allows border officials to quickly turn away migrants at the border, with the exception of unaccompanied minors.

“They express surprise and shock at the fact that they are overwhelmed when the Border Patrol and everyone here in Texas knew this was coming,” Abbott said.


March 14, 2021, 6:19 p.m. ET

Republican John Katko, Republican of New York, said that if FEMA is involved, “by definition, it is a disaster.”

“I have serious concerns that this will strain an already tight FEMA workforce and budget,” he said, “with an ongoing pandemic and Atlantic hurricane season in less than three months.”

The Biden administration tried to find additional shelter for the children. The government has considered putting them in disused school buildings, military bases, and even on NASA’s Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View, California.

Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services have also been deployed to border installations to find sponsors for migrant children more quickly. The government last week canceled a 2018 agreement that allowed the agency to share certain information on child sponsorship with immigration and customs authorities. Immigration advocates said the agreement prevented the teens’ relatives from signing up to sponsor them, effectively creating a backlog in the system.

The flood of crossroads increases the pressure in a divisive political struggle that has also faced the last three governments.

Mr Biden’s critics have moved swiftly in recent days to blame him for the surge in arrivals that they say threaten the security, economic recovery and health of the country as the coronavirus pandemic continues Thousands of lives claimed.

Many of them seem eager to divert attention from the president’s handling of the pandemic and his publicly well-received $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package to an issue that the Republican Party as opposed to Democrats could unite.

The spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi described the influx of migrants, especially children, on Sunday as “a humanitarian challenge for all of us”. But she was determined to blame Mr Trump and his policies, as well as the longstanding unrest in Central America that had driven waves of migrants north.

“What the administration has inherited is a broken system on the border, and they are working to correct that in the interests of the children,” she said in “This Week” on ABC.

Representative Veronica Escobar, Democrat of Texas, who also referred to the Trump administration, said she found the situation “unacceptable” at a processing facility she visited in El Paso on Friday.

Nicholas Fandos and Chris Cameron contributed to the coverage.

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