Biden asks USA disaster agency to help migrant children

The US Health and Human Services department is currently holding about 8,800 migrant children

A USA agency that normally deals with major emergencies and natural disasters has been brought in to help care for the rising numbers of migrant children arriving at the United States southern border.

At the peak of the 2019 border crisis - when there were overcrowded facilities and children sleeping on the ground - there were around 2,600 unaccompanied children in Border Patrol custody, a former CBP official previously told CNN.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington.

The Health and Human Services (HHS) department is now holding about 8,800 migrant children and the US Customs and Border Protection has hundreds more in their charge, with more arriving every day.

Fema will support a government-wide effort over the next three months to safely receive, shelter and transfer minor children who arrive alone at the U.S. southwest border, without a parent or other adult, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Saturday.

But in the same month Mr Biden became president, 5,871 unaccompanied children crossed the border - up from 4,995 in December - according to data from US Customs and Border Protection (CPB). During that crisis, Fema helped stand up temporary shelters and processing stations on military bases. The Homeland Security statement said FEMA would assist in looking "at every available option to quickly expand physical capacity for appropriate lodging".

Migrant children apprehended at the border are supposed to be transferred out of Border Patrol custody within 72 hours.

"We're not going to cage children or divide families or rip children from mothers' arms", Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of Texas CNN's Abby Phillip on Sunday, "but we need an orderly process for migrants who qualify for asylum to hopefully ask for asylum in their home country or a neighboring country or maybe build a center in southern Mexico where they can be processed there".

The Biden administration has advocated an immigration overhaul that would a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants now residing in the USA, and has already reversed some Trump-era restrictions.

There have been reports of parents sending their children across the border from Mexico unaccompanied.

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