US immigration: Disaster agency Fema brought in to help with child migrant surge

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A US agency that normally deals with major emergencies and natural disasters has been brought in to help care for the rising numbers of migrant children arriving at the US southern border.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) would “help receive, shelter and transport the children” for the next 90 days, it was announced.

President Biden has begun reversing some of Mr Trump’s migrant policies.

But the recent surge of arrivals is putting pressure on processing systems.

There were a record number of children – 3,200 – being held in US immigration facilities on the US-Mexican border as of 8 March.

Hundreds continue to arrive each day, and many are being held beyond the legal three-day limit after which they are supposed to be turned over to health officials who find homes for them while their immigration case is resolved.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said last week that the situation on the border was “overwhelming” but not yet a crisis.

Announcing Fema’s involvement, Mr Mayorkas said the agency would work with the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) to “look at every available option to quickly expand physical capacity for appropriate lodging”.

“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,” he added.

On the campaign trail, Joe Biden promised to reverse many of Donald Trump’s restrictive migrant policies.

Since taking office in January, he has ordered the reunification of migrant children with their families, ended construction of the border wall and called for reviews of legal immigration programmes terminated by his predecessor.

But in the same month Mr Biden became president, 5,871 unaccompanied children crossed the border – up from 4,995 in December – according to data from US Customs and Border Protection (CPB).

And CPB reported an average of nearly 3,000 arrests per day in January compared with an average of about 1,800 arrests in January 2020.

CBS News reports that at least 7,000 migrant children entered the US in February.


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