FEMA ordered to help with influx of migrant children at U.S.-Mexico border


U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, March 1, 2021.

Kevin Lemarque | Reuters

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will help shelter and transfer a record number of child migrants showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Homeland Security secretary said Saturday,

While the administration of President Joe Biden has avoided calling the situation a national emergency as former President Donald Trump declared in 2019, it acknowledged a rising number of “encounters” at the border since April.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said FEMA would help children found at the border avoid being treated as detainees of Customs and Border Protection and move them more quickly into the care of the Department of Health and Human Services.

From there, he said, the children could be placed with a family member or sponsor until their immigration cases are processed.

“I have said many times, a Border Patrol facility is no place for a child,” Mayorkas said in a statement.

FEMA will find and expand suitable facilities for the children, the Homeland Security Department said, and adults and accompanied children will continue to be returned to Mexico.

Homeland Security officials said volunteers also would be a part of the effort to find shelter for the migrant children.

So many unaccompanied minors were showing up at the border in late winter that some observers believe a new humanitarian crisis could be brewing.

More than 3,200 unaccompanied migrant children are being housed in Customs and Border Protection holding facilities, NBC News reported Monday. More than half were being held in so-called “ice boxes” not intended for children because detainees can only be held in the cells for a maximum of three days.

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