The Biden administration is offering paid leave to thousands of federal employees so they’ll volunteer to help care for thousands of migrant children who have crossed illegally into the U.S. in another sign the situation along the border has spiraled out of control.
According to The New York Times, the administration has sent emails to federal workers asking for their assistance with Unaccompanied Alien Children, or UAC’s.
“The desperate plea landed this week in the email inboxes of employees in government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and NASA: Will you consider taking a four-month paid leave from your job to help care for migrant children in government-run shelters packed with new arrivals at the border?” The Times reported.
“The request to much of the federal work force came from the Department of Health and Human Services, which is at the heart of a frantic effort by the Biden administration to keep up with a surge in young people crossing the southwestern border hoping to reunite with relatives already in the United States,” the paper continued.
On Sunday during an interview with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Fox News host Chris Matthews referenced a government estimate that, at the current rate of UACs crossing the border, there will be 35,000 migrant minors in detention centers by June. But Abbott projected the number would actually be higher.
The interview followed a press conference Abbott held last week in which he blamed the Biden administration for the current migrant crisis and said that Texas child welfare agencies have been receiving a number of complaints of sexual abuse at one detention center, in particular, the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio.
“This facility is a health and safety nightmare,” he said. “The Biden administration is now presiding over the abuse of children. To end this abuse, the Biden administration must immediately shut down this facility.”
Following Abbott’s comments, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said flatly the administration has no plans to close the facility.
“Well, first we take safety and the well-being of children in our care very seriously, hence our earlier conversation about the funding spent to keep them safe during the pandemic,” Psaki noted. “His claims will be looked into and investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services.”
She added: “Currently we have no basis for his call to shut down the San Antonio Freeman Coliseum as an intake site but we will of course — we take these allegations seriously and they will be investigated.”
In March, Border Patrol agents intercepted more than 170,000 illegal aliens and migrant children along the U.S.-Mexico border, with at least half of them coming from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. That’s a 243 percent increase over March 2020.
Breitbart News reports that an estimated 155,000 migrants have crossed illegally and managed to elude a shrinking number of Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection Agents since October, or roughly 1,500 per day.
The Times adds that immigration enforcement agents encountered around 19,000 minors in March, the most ever recording in a single month. Currently, there are more than 20,000 migrant minors and teens in federal custody within a system at “103 percent of capacity,” according to briefing data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s “Operation Artemis,” the code name of the response to the border crisis.
The Times went on to report that President Joe Biden is getting frustrated with Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra because his agency is not moving migrant children out of “jail-like detention facilities run by Border Patrol” quickly enough.
Once there, by law, the migrant minors can only be held for three days before being moved out of those detention centers and into shelters run by HHS. But a lack of shelter space due to the crush of migrants means kids are being held for many days longer in the detention facilities, the Times reported.
Biden administration officials have blamed former President Donald Trump.
“Despite inheriting a broken immigration system decimated by four years of neglect and poor policy decisions, the Biden administration continues to remain focused on expanding capacity and bed space,” Vedant R. Patel, a White House spokesman, told the paper.
Former Trump administration officials have pushed back against that narrative, saying that facilities were shut down in the wake of policies that dramatically reduced illegal immigration and are instead blaming Biden’s reversal of those policies for the current surges.