President Joe Biden is struggling to head off a potential humanitarian and political crisis on the U.S. southern border, where a spike in migrant crossings — particularly by unaccompanied children — threatens to overwhelm government shelters.
White House officials briefed Biden earlier this week on the surge, and the administration has held multiple briefings with House and Senate lawmakers on the situation, according to congressional aides. Homeland Security officials are giving weekly updates to several Capitol Hill offices.
“We’ll be able to handle it, God willing,” Biden said Tuesday. But asked whether the surge constituted a crisis, the president was clear: “No.”
The administration has taken steps to clear shelter space by speeding the release of unaccompanied minors to relatives or sponsors in the U.S., and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said additional measures are on the table.
But the situation could worsen if the flow of migrants continues to rise.
More than 5,700 unaccompanied minors were apprehended at the border in January, the highest total for that month in recent years, according to the Department of Homeland Security. At the end of the month, about 5,100 children and teenagers were in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, which runs the shelters.
By late February, the number of minors in custody had risen to 7,000, a sign that the influx isn’t abating. About 90% of shelter capacity was occupied, stretched not only by the influx of migrants but also by space restrictions due to the pandemic, according to a congressional aide familiar with the administration’s briefings.
“The numbers are significant, the challenge is significant and our plans are well underway as we build the capacity to address the needs of the children,” Mayorkas said in an NBC News interview that aired Thursday. “And we are rebuilding from scratch.”
Subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2TwO8Gm
Connect with us on…
Breaking News on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/BloombergQuickTakeNews