Updated Mar 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden admin sending FEMA to border to help care for child migrants

A child walks outside a shelter for migrants in Tenosique, Tabasco state, Mexico, on Monday, March 9
A child at a shelter for migrants in Tenosique, Tabasco state, Mexico, on March 9. Photor: Nicolo Filippo Rosso/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration announced Saturday it has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to go to the southern border and help care for increasing numbers of unaccompanied child migrants arriving there.

Why it matters: The record number of child migrants crossing the border has been overwhelming the administration's stretched resources, Axios' Jonathan Swan and Stef Kight note.

  • Per a DHS statement Saturday, "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."
  • Customs and Border Protection has projected a peak of 13,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border in May, according to details leaked to Axios.

What's happening: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had directed FEMA to "support a government-wide effort over the next 90 days to safely receive, shelter, and transfer unaccompanied children who make the dangerous journey to the U.S. southwest border."

What they're saying: Mayorkas said in a statement anyone apprehended at the border would continue to be denied entry and are returned to "effectively protect both the health and safety of migrants and our communities from the spread" of COVID-19.

  • "A Border Patrol facility is no place for a child," Mayorkas said. "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."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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