FEMA deploys to help with border crisis

President Joe Biden's administration has deployed FEMA to help with a surge of more than 4,000 unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S. southern border. About 3,000 immigrant teenagers will now be put up temporarily at a convention center in downtown Dallas.

The influx of children escaping Central America has strained the U.S. immigration system.

"They are struggling currently without having an adequate number of facilities to hold those children until they are to be processed into the system, into Health and Human Services or an adult sponsor in the United States," said David Lapan, a former press secretary with the Department of Homeland Security who now works for the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas directed FEMA to shelter and take care of unaccompanied children for at least the next 90 days. Housing facilities currently used for children are overwhelmed. FEMA's primary responsibility is responding to natural disasters. This will test the agency to be able to do both. 

"There's no question that we have to put more resources at the border, and part of that is FEMA's ability to bring some resolution to this issue," Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said. "It's going to be difficult. It's going to require more time and investment."

The pandemic has exacerbated the border crisis. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the situation is dire. He called on the Biden administration to do more. McCarthy and several Republican lawmakers visited the U.S.-Mexican border in El Paso.

"As we talk to the medical units and as I tell you, not as a member of Congress, but as a father of a son and a daughter, and you look in the eyes of these children, they came unaccompanied," McCarthy said. "They tell the story of a 1-, a 3- and a 5-year-old holding their hands, walking up to an agent, with no parents, no adults in sight. Who brought them?"

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DHS Secretary Statment

"I am grateful for the exceptional talent and responsiveness of the FEMA team. I am incredibly proud of the agents of the Border Patrol, who have been working around the clock in difficult circumstances to take care of children temporarily in our care. Yet, as I have said many times, a Border Patrol facility is no place for a child. 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." —ALEJANDRO N. MAYORKAS, Secretary of Homeland Security

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