WASHINGTON – The Biden administration is directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help address the growing number of children and teens who have filled detention facilities on the southwestern border, as criticism mounts over the treatment of young immigrants.
Michael Hart, a spokesperson for the agency, said in a statement that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which usually provides financial assistance during natural disasters, will help find shelter and provide “food, water and basic medical care” for thousands of young immigrants.
The department also asked officials in the Department of Homeland Security to volunteer to “assist in caring for and assisting unaccompanied minors” who were detained in border prisons run by Customs and Border Protection.
Previous departments have also dispatched the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help deal with migrants during sudden increases at border crossings. However, the Biden administration cannot use disaster aid funding to support the processing of immigrants in Texas after they cross the border without the approval of Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican. Countries should request funding from the federal government.
Rina Ease, a spokeswoman for Mr. Abbott, said the Biden administration’s proposal for disaster aid for Texas “does not just offer testing and unrestricted funding.”
“It forces Texas to use our resources in terms of federal government function, and border security,” she said. “The federal government is solely responsible for testing, screening, and isolating illegal immigrants who cross our borders who may have COVID-19.”
Nearly 4,000 young people were at Customs and Border Protection facilities this week, more than about 2,600 children and adolescents were held in these detention facilities in June 2019. Troy Miller, the Acting Commissioner for Customs and Border Protection, said last week that 9457 children, including teenagers, they were They are being held at the border without a parent In February, up from over 5,800 in January.
The Biden administration has so far failed to quickly process young immigrants and transfer them to shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services, where they are held until the government matches them with the sponsor. The administration has struggled to expand the capacity of those shelters, with some 8,500 migrants detained this week. The Biden administration recently directed shelters aimed at holding children back to their normal capacity, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Health and Human Services also opened a temporary facility for children and teens on Sunday in Midland, Texas, to help migrants exit border facilities, according to Mark Webber, a spokesperson for the agency. The management had already opened another temporary facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas.
“The Border Patrol facility is not a place for a child,” Alejandro said Mayuras, Minister of Homeland Security, in a statement on Saturday. “Our goal is to ensure that unaccompanied children are transferred to HHS as quickly as possible.”
Mr. Abbott and other Republicans described the increase in border crossings as a direct result of Mr. Biden’s goal to roll back President Donald J Trump’s restrictive immigration policies. But Mr. Biden maintained the Trump-era epidemic emergency rule that enables border agents to quickly push migrants back at the border, with the exception of unaccompanied minors.
“They are expressing their surprise and shock at the fact that they are so inundated with it, when Border Guards and everyone here in Texas learned this was coming,” Abbott said.
Rep. John Catcho, a Republican from New York State, said that if the Federal Emergency Management Agency was involved, “it’s a disaster by definition.”
“I have serious concerns that this will strain the FEMA’s workforce and the budget is already weak,” he said, with the epidemic response and hurricane season continuing in the Atlantic less than three months away.
The Biden administration scrambled to find an additional shelter for the children. The administration has considered housing them in unused school buildings, military bases, and even at a NASA site, Moffett Federal Airport in Mountain View, California.
Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services have also been placed at border facilities in an effort to find sponsors for migrant children more quickly. Last week, the administration scrapped a 2018 agreement that allowed the agency to share certain information about caregivers of children through the Immigration and Customs Enforcement app. Immigration advocates said the agreement discouraged relatives of the youths to come forward to take care of them, effectively creating a backlog of work in the system.
The Spree of crossings It adds new pressure in a divisive political battle that has also faced the last three administrations.
Mr. Biden’s critics have moved swiftly in recent days to blame him for a surge in arrivals who say they threaten the country’s safety, economic recovery and health as the coronavirus pandemic continues to claim thousands of lives.
Many of them seem eager to divert attention away from the president’s handling of the pandemic and the $ 1.9 trillion stimulus bill, which has been well received by the public, and toward an issue that could unite the Republican Party in opposing the Democrats.
On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the influx of migrants, especially children, as “a humanitarian challenge for all of us.” But she was determined to blame Mr Trump and his policies, and the chronic unrest in Central America that had driven waves of immigrants north.
“What the administration inherited is a broken border system, and they are working to correct that in the interest of the children,” she said on ABC’s “This Week” program.
Texas Democrat Veronica Escobar, who also referred to the Trump administration, said she found the situation at a processing facility that toured El Paso on Friday “unacceptable”.
Nicholas Fandus And the Chris Cameron Contribute to reporting.