The Biden administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the U.S.-Mexico border Saturday to help care for the surge of unaccompanied migrant children pouring into the United States.
Over the weekend, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas released a statement announcing FEMA’s involvement at the southern border as part of a 90-day effort to gather, shelter and transfer the minors who cross the border illegally.
“I am grateful for the exceptional talent and responsiveness of the FEMA team,” Mayorkas said in the 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 President Biden’s administration struggles to handle the influx of migrants at the southern border. Fox News reported that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers set up an open-air processing facility under an overpass in the Rio Grande Valley Center of Texas.
An image of open-air facility showing migrants waiting inside a fenced-in area was shared by the New York Post on Twitter.
According to Fox, the illegal immigrants were organized into ‘family units’, ‘unaccompanied minors’ and ‘single adults’ prior to being transported by bus to other facilities – which are severely overcrowded.
In February, over 100,000 migrants were encountered at the border, jumping 30 percent from January and almost tripling the number from the same period in 2020.
Last week, Border Patrol facilities held more than 3,200 migrant children, with nearly 1,400 being held beyond the three-day legal limit, according to documents obtained by the New York Times.
The documents painted a grim picture of children being held in facilities “akin to jails” that were originally built for adults as the number of unaccompanied children tripled in two weeks.
Lawyers who interviewed a number of migrant youths late last week in Texas said some of the children were being held for as long as seven days, CBS News reported.
Neha Desai, a lawyer representing migrant children in U.S. government custody, said the children she spoke with were hungry, with several noting they could only shower once in seven days.
“Some of the boys said that conditions were so overcrowded that they had to take turns sleeping on the floor,” Desai added, according to her interviews with almost a dozen unaccompanied migrant children at the CBP facility in Donna, Texas.
CBS News reported that the Donna facility held over 1,800 people on March 2 – 729 percent it’s pandemic-restricted capacity, which is supposed to hold just 250 illegal immigrants.
“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,” Secretary Mayorkas’ statement read.