The Biden administration is mobilizing FEMA amid record numbers of migrant children and teens at the border

Us-mexico border migrant children
Central American asylum seekers arrive to a bus station after being released by U.S. Border Patrol agents on February 26, 2021 in Brownsville, Texas. John Moore/Getty Images
  • The Biden administration mobilized FEMA for 90 days to assist with migrant children at the border.
  • Record numbers of unaccompanied minor children have recently arrived at the US-Mexico border.
  • The children have reportedly been suffering overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.
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The Biden administration on Saturday evening mobilized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond to a major influx of migrant children arriving at the US-Mexico border.

The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that FEMA will be assisting in “a government-wide effort over the next 90 days to safely receive, shelter, and transfer unaccompanied children who make the dangerous journey to the US southwest border.”

Data from the Customs and Border Protection agency show a skyrocketing rate of apprehensions at the US-Mexico border in recent months, similar to the numbers in 2019 when hundreds of thousands of migrant families journeyed to the US from Central America, seeking asylum.

In February, CBP recorded a whopping 100,441 apprehensions at the border, most of them either unaccompanied minors or members of families that had traveled together.

The numbers of migrants arriving in the US vastly outstrip CBP’s resources – particularly when it comes to detaining and processing children. Typically, unaccompanied children at the border are first processed by CBP officials, then sent to shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services, which places the children with relatives or other sponsors while their immigration cases are processed through the court system.

But both CBP and HHS are struggling to make space for the children. One recent New York Times report revealed that under the Biden administration, border officials had detained more than 1,360 migrant children longer than the mandatory 72-hour limit permitted by US law.

Migrant children us-mexico border
Central American asylum seekers arrive to a bus station while being released by U.S. Border Patrol agents on February 26, 2021 in Brownsville, Texas. John Moore/Getty Images

President Joe Biden has vowed to set a new tone with his immigration agenda and rid the federal government of the Trump administration’s “cruel and senseless policies” toward migrant children. But already, a number of reports have documented similar instances of severe overcrowding, and unsanitary and inhumane conditions.

Several nonprofit lawyers who visited a Border Patrol tent facility in Texas found children packed together and sleeping on the floor due to the lack of mats. The lawyers said some children had to wait five or more days for a shower, often without any soap available.

Their observations echoed similar reports during the Trump era, in which migrant children endured inedible food, undrinkable water, open toilets, exposure to illnesses, and no soap, toothbrushes, or showers to clean themselves. Some were detained in tents, others in freezing cold Border Patrol facilities, and others still in open-air enclosures in parking lots. Several children even died in Border Patrol custody.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas noted in a statement on Saturday that “a Border Patrol facility is no place for a child.”

He continued: “We are working in partnership with [the Department of 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.”