FEMA sent to US-Mexico border to help shelter droves of unaccompanied migrant children

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border for the next 90 days to help manage the surge in unaccompanied migrant children being detained there.

The Department of Homeland Security announced the move on Saturday, with the stated goal of safely sheltering the children before transferring them to be with a family member or sponsor until the completion of their immigration case in court.

CBS News reported that the 9,500 unaccompanied children taken into U.S. border custody in February is a 21-month high.

Of the 3,200 children in border patrol facilities, nearly 1,400 of them had been held beyond 72 hours, per CBS, which is the legal limit border officials have to turn over unaccompanied minors to the refugee office.

More than 7,000 of these minors were sent to shelters overseen by the Office of Refugee Resettlement — which falls under the umbrella of the Department of Health and Human Services — and is responsible for housing them until a sponsor can be located, according to CBS.

“We are working in partnership with [Health and Human Services] 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,” Homeland Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a news release.

“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 DHS said that FEMA is working with HHS to expand its appropriate lodging capacity.

All parts of DHS, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Protective Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and volunteers with the department will “help to provide shelter capacity, security, and other support as needed,” according to the release.

CBS News contributed to this report

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up