The Biden administration is so desperate to move unaccompanied minors out of shelter facilities that it is now paying the travel expenses of adult sponsors who agree to pick up the children. This is a new policy, implemented in March, and it shows the urgency of the humanitarian crisis U.S.-Mexico border.
The policy before March included taxpayer funding for air travel for some of the children being released to vetted adult sponsors or family members. The payments for the flights were considered normal operating expenses for the unaccompanied minors program. This policy was updated on March 22 to include funding for travel by sponsors to pick up the child or children. This goes against the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) own policy. It is being done now because of the urgency to speed up the process of matching up unaccompanied minors with adult sponsors. The current number of children and teenagers in the shelter network system is reported to be 20,000.
It had already started to use government funds to pay to transport minors to sponsors in February. An HHS spokesperson said the transport of children to sponsors is a “normal part” of the UAC program’s operations. It has been estimated that the U.S. is spending at least $60 million a week to house unaccompanied children. There are currently more than 20,000 in HHS custody.
A former HHS official says that this enhanced policy may actually save money, given the cost of housing an unaccompanied minor.
The allowance came despite the agency’s own policy stating that the sponsor “is responsible for the unaccompanied alien child’s transportation costs,” and under “no circumstances will [the Office of Refugee Resettlement] pay for the sponsor’s airfare.”
Mark Greenberg, a former HHS official who oversaw the child migrant program under President Obama, told Axios it’s a good decision in view of the rising number of kids in custody.
Given reports it costs about $775 a day to house a child, covering sponsor travel costs could save the government money, Greenberg said.
The Washington Post reports that more than 40% of the minors released by the government have at least one parent already living in the United States. Most are likely illegal immigrants themselves. Even the liberal WaPo admits that the U.S. government has never had so many unaccompanied minors in its custody. There are a reported 2,200 in border facilities waiting for shelter beds to open up in addition to the other 20,000 already in shelters. Besides the humanitarian crisis, the border crisis has brought a public health risk with it. Expenses are continuing to increase and the Biden administration is slow to find vetted sponsors for the children. There is no end in sight.
More than 40 percent of the minors released by the government have at least one parent already living in the United States, but HHS has been taking 25 days on average to approve release and grant custody to the mother or father, a number that dipped to 22 days Thursday, according to the latest internal data reviewed by The Washington Post. It takes an average of 33 days to release minors to other immediate relatives, such as siblings.
Federal officials say they are scrambling to speed up reunifications, streamlining requirements and even offering to pay for parents’ transportation costs. But lawyers, lawmakers and White House officials are urging them to act faster, saying the prolonged detentions are traumatizing children and putting them at risk of catching the coronavirus.
For the past several weeks, the Biden administration has been chiefly focused on reducing the number of children held in cramped Customs and Border Protection tents and jails. Officials have rushed to open emergency shelters to temporarily house them at convention centers, military bases and converted oil worker camps. This effort costs at least $60 million per week, according to an analysis of government estimates, and is expected to continue for months.
One California couple who are foster parents reports that the Biden administration asked them to take in unaccompanied minors from Central America. Some foster parents are being asked to take up to 26 children.
Automated emails and phone calls from the state’s Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD) have asked foster parents if they can take anywhere from one to 26 or more children. Foster parents are worried about the human trafficking aspect of the crisis.
Travis and Sharla Kall received a voice message and then a follow-up email in mid-March with the request.
“At first, it was just strange,” Travis Kall told The Epoch Times. He thought it was a mistake until Diandra Causey, a friend and also a foster parent, confirmed with her agency that it was a request to foster unaccompanied minors who had recently crossed the border illegally.
“We were outraged. They’re literally going to use the foster system to facilitate human trafficking,” he said.
You can’t blame foster parents for being angry that the Biden administration is trying to take advantage of them. The government isn’t able to keep up with processing the minors and now they just want to shuffle them around the country to say they have gotten them out of the shelters. HHS has a time limit as to how long it is supposed to be able to hold unaccompanied minors and the Biden administration can’t keep up. Human trafficking is a booming business during this border crisis, self-inflicted by Biden’s confusing executive orders and actions. Drug cartels are running rampant at the border. Coyotes are trafficking women and children for a handsome profit. To now try and pass off the children to the foster care system is a horrible idea. The foster care system is for American children in dire situations and foster parents receive training on how to care for them. In Los Angeles alone, there are currently 30,000 American children waiting for placement, according to Sharla Kall. This is putting foster parents between a rock and a hard place. The Biden administration needs to do better and find another way to take care of unaccompanied minors who are not being returned to their home countries.