TIME Immigration

White House Moves to Address Surge in Unaccompanied Children at Border

U.S. Border Patrol agents detain a group of young migrants from Honduras and Guatemala near the Anzalduas Dam.
U.S. Border Patrol agents detain a group of young migrants from Honduras and Guatemala near the Anzalduas Dam at the Mexico-U.S. border in south Texas, March 25, 2014. Todd Heisler—The New York Times/Redux

An attempt to address an "urgent humanitarian situation"

The Obama Administration said Friday that it will send a surge of government lawyers and judges to the southern border and provide some $254 million in aid to address the “urgent humanitarian situation” of unaccompanied children crossing into the United States.

Describing these children as vulnerable to violent crime and sexual abuse, the White House tasked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with organizing a response.

“Our first priority is to manage the urgent humanitarian situation by making sure these children are housed, fed, and receive any necessary medical treatment,” the White House said. “We also are taking steps to improve enforcement and partnering with our Central American counterparts in three key areas: combating gang violence and strengthening citizen security, spurring economic development, and improving capacity to receive and reintegrate returned families and children.”

Approximately 52,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended along the country’s southern border since October 2013, said DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Another 39,000 adults with children were apprehended. The influx of unaccompanied children has further inflamed the debate in Washington over immigration reform, which appears dead in the current Congress.

The Administration announced several new programs in Central American nations to address the issue, ranging from youth outreach to facilities that reintegrate returned migrants. The White House also called for an increase in government resources at the border, as it looks to improve its ability to detain adults who travel with children and carry out immigration court hearings efficiently, while protecting those who seek asylum.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest did not offer any details on how the Administration plans to pay for the surge.

-Additional reporting by Zeke J Miller

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