The Biden administration is calling for more federal employees to volunteer their time at the southern border to help with the surge in unaccompanied immigrant children who have been trapped in overcrowded facilities.
Federal workers would aid the Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts to place unaccompanied children with a family member and out of U.S. custody as officials try to reduce overcrowding, according to a job advertisement issued the Thursday.
US officials have been unable to keep up with the surge in unaccompanied children at the border as they attempt to discharge facilities run by the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which were also tied to beds. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security have already requested volunteers to help HHS process children outside of border facilities and expedite the system that leads them to potential sponsors, such as family members, in the United States.
The job posting states that employees who choose to join “will collect and provide information to ORR in an efficient manner to allow the National Call Center to begin communicating with parents and family members to expedite the discharge of children to a sponsor. They would also help DHS and ORR find children who should have a higher priority based on a “vulnerable category or time in CBP custody.” Employees will be sent to emergency intake sites in San Diego, Dallas, San Antonio, and possibly CBP stations.
Employees taking on the role will interview the children and collect contact information for their family members in the US and elsewhere. ORR officials are trying to streamline the unification process to clear more space in the shelter facilities.
“The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is partnering with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support the Administration’s urgent efforts to care for and locate unaccompanied children who have entered the United States through the southern border, “Kathleen McGettigan, the head of the OPM, wrote to agencies Thursday.
Earlier this week, HHS officials issued a new “expedited release” guide that reduces the often complicated process of releasing children to their parents or guardians if there are no immediate red flags and the child is not particularly vulnerable. , According to the document.
HHS officials will conduct interviews to establish evidence of their relationship, along with other steps, and then release the child to the parents. HHS officials are then authorized to purchase plane or bus tickets for the sponsors to come pick up the children and pay for the costs associated with their return home.
Unaccompanied children from Central America who are picked up by Border Patrol agents are typically sent to the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement, where they are housed in shelters across the country while they begin to officially apply for asylum and wait to meet with members. of the family in the US.
The administration needs the additional capacity of HHS to help alleviate overcrowding at Border Patrol facilities, where more than 5,000 unaccompanied children were detained Wednesday. Many of the children have been in custody for more than 72 hours, the legal limit for children in such facilities.
In recent weeks, HHS and DHS opened an emergency intake site specifically for minors at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas. The decision was made just days after the agency opened a separate emergency site in Midland, Texas. HHS then revealed Saturday that it will also open the Target Lodge Pecos North property in Texas as an “influx care facility” for children – it can house about 500 children and can be expanded to house 2,000.
Earlier this week, officials also said they would soon open convention centers in San Diego and San Antonio, in addition to using Defense Department bases in Texas.
President Joe Biden said in his press conference Thursday that the efforts should lead to children getting out of border patrol facilities more quickly.