The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Saturday determined that an agency normally tasked with responding to floods and hurricanes would help deal with a growing number of immigrant children arriving at the U.S. border with Mexico.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) had been called in to “help receive, shelter and transport the children” in the next 90 days.
The explosion in the number of migrants is emerging as a humanitarian and political crisis for the Biden, the Democratic government that took over the presidency on January 20. The increase in the arrival of migrants comes after Biden rolled back some of former President Donald Trump’s restrictive measures.
Unaccompanied minors detained at the border are taken by immigration officials to Department of Health shelters. But the explosion in the number of children arriving without their parents led to the exhaustion of accommodation capacity, which had been reduced by 40% due to the pandemic.
The capacity restriction was revoked on March 5, but only 200 beds were available last week.
It was not specified how Fema will act, but we know that the agency has expertise in welcoming and caring for homeless populations. The Department of Homeland Security statement said the agency “would look for ways to rapidly increase the physical capacity of the shelters.”
The agency is also working with the Ministry of Health to “provide food, water and basic medical care”.
Migrant children detained by border patrols must be transferred to shelters within 72 hours at the latest. But when there are no vacancies, they end up in detention centers at the border for long periods of time, and that is what is happening now.
These centers were built to accommodate only adult males, for short periods of time, and pose a threat of Covid contamination when overcrowded.
There were more than 3,600 children in detention centers and border crossings on Thursday (11), four times more than at the end of February, an official told Reuters. On Friday, the Ministry of Health’s refugee office registered another 8,000 children on its premises (12).
Fema also helped coordinate a program to deal with the increase in the number of unaccompanied minors in 2014 under the Obama administration.