After weeks of claiming all is well at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Saturday acknowledged that “record numbers” of foreigners are overwhelming U.S. agencies, prompting the department to call in help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“The federal government is responding to the arrival of record numbers of individuals, including unaccompanied children, at the southwest border. Since April 2020, the number of encounters at the border has been rising due to ongoing violence, natural disasters, food insecurity, and poverty in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America,” DHS said. “The federal government is working around the clock to move unaccompanied children from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) care and to place them with a family member or sponsor until their immigration case is adjudicated. The risks posed by the spread of COVID-19 have made this mission all the more difficult.”
“I am grateful for the exceptional talent and responsiveness of the FEMA team,” said Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “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.”
Mayorkas said calling in FEMA is part of a 90-day “government-wide” effort to deal with the surge in foreigners at the border, which began after President Joe Biden’s changed several policies.
In some of his first actions in office, Biden did away with the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which kept foreigners who tried to enter the U.S. illegally in Mexico to await hearings. Instead, Biden has returned to a “catch-and-release” policy in which illegal aliens are allowed to enter the U.S.
Mayorkas said FEMA will be used to get children out of Border Patrol custody more quickly. Under current law, unaccompanied children at the border must be transferred to federal shelters within 72 hours of being apprehended at the border, but the surge has made that difficult.
“FEMA is now integrated and co-located with HHS to look at every available option to quickly expand physical capacity for appropriate lodging. The workforce of DHS, including CBP, the Federal Protective Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and volunteers from across the Department through the DHS Volunteer Force, will help to provide shelter capacity, security, and other support as needed,” Mayorkas said.
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