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.

  • 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.

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.”

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Biden declares Texas a major disaster after winter storms devastated the state

texas storm
Volunteers load cases of water into the bed of a truck during a mass water distribution at Delmar Stadium on February 19, 2021.

  • President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in the state of Texas, The White House announced.
  • The declaration will make available federal funding to residents of dozens of Texas counties.
  • Winter storms that began February 11 have devastated Texas, causing power and water outages.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The White House on Saturday announced President Joe Biden had declared a major disaster in the state of Texas following a series of unusual winter storms this month that left millions of Texans without electricity or clean water. 

The declaration allows individuals in dozens of counties impacted by the weather to apply for federal funding, which the White House noted Saturday includes grants for temporary housing, funds for home repairs, and “low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses” amid other programs to assist Texans impacted by the storms.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Texas residents can begin to apply for assistance online or by calling a hotline for assistance. 

Winter storms that brought frigid temperatures, snow, and ice to cities across the state of Texas have left dozens of people dead, and experts fear the actual toll is much higher, the Texas Tribune reported.

While power has since been restored to most people in Texas, millions spent hours and days without it as the storm caused outages and forced power companies to institute rolling blackouts to prevent wider uncontrolled outages. Millions in the state remained without clean drinking water and were asked to boil their water, according to the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality, after power outages impacted water treatment facilities.

The declaration will also offer federal funds to state and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations “on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures and hazard mitigation measures statewide,” the White House said in its Sunday statement.

According to the Associated Press, Biden said Friday he hoped to visit Texas next week but was mulling over whether his visit would be a distraction from the state’s attempts at recovery. He said he’d make a decision on travel next week. 

“They’re working like the devil to take care of their folks,” Biden said.

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