search
Sections List
American Journal News

US to speed up release of migrant children to family members

Nearly all of Health and Human Services’ 7,100 beds for immigrant children are full.

By Associated Press - February 24, 2021
Share
Migrant teens in Texas

With its long-term facilities for immigrant children nearly full, the Biden administration is working to expedite the release of children to their relatives in the U.S.

U.S. Health and Human Services on Wednesday authorized operators of long-term facilities to pay for some of the children’s flights and transportation to the homes of their sponsors. Under the agency’s current guidelines, sponsors can be charged for those flights and required to pay before the government will release children, even if the sponsors have been vetted by the government.

Those costs can sometimes exceed $1,000 per child.

An internal memo sent Wednesday and obtained by the Associated Press authorizes facility operators to use government funding for transport fees “in the event that a sponsor is not able to pay fees associated with commercial airfare, and a child’s physical release would be otherwise delayed.” HHS declined to say how many flights would be funded.

HHS has drastically cut its capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly all of the department’s 7,100 beds for immigrant children are full. Meanwhile, Border Patrol agents are apprehending an average of more than 200 children crossing the border without a parent per day. Most Border Patrol facilities aren’t equipped for long-term detention, with children forced to sleep on mats in cells where the lights stay on around the clock.

To take children from the Border Patrol, HHS reopened a surge facility at Carrizo Springs, Texas, that can hold up to 700 teenagers, and may soon reopen another site at Homestead, Florida. While they have beds, classrooms, and dining areas, surge facilities cost an estimated $775 per child per day and are not subject to the same licensing requirements as regular facilities.

Democrats sharply criticized them during the administration of Donald Trump, and news of Carrizo Springs’ reopening has drawn criticism from some Democrats as well as Republicans who argue Trump was unfairly blamed. Some have accused Biden of moving to detain children in “cages.” No children are detained in cells or behind chain-link fencing at Carrizo Springs, which has long trailers that serve as dormitories and a large tent as a dining hall.

“We had to expand and open additional facilities because there was not enough space in the existing facilities if we were to abide by COVID protocols,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday. Psaki noted that Biden halted a Trump-era practice of expelling unaccompanied immigrant children under public health law, though the U.S. still expels immigrant families and single adults who cross the border without permission.

“Our objective is to move these kids quickly from there to vetted, sponsored families and to places where they can safely be,” she said.

But experts on the detention of immigrant children say HHS needs to change how it works to relieve pressure on the overall system.

Leecia Welch, senior director of child welfare at the nonprofit National Center for Youth Law, said HHS could have made several policy changes months ago that would alleviate what she called “a government-created crisis.” She applauded the move to pay for flights and called on U.S. officials to explore other ways to release children from HHS faster, including by raising the capacity of regular facilities while ensuring that protocols are followed to stop the spread of the virus.

“While we recognize the Biden administration’s efforts to process unaccompanied children in a responsible way that addresses public health needs and prioritizes children’s safety, it is critical that it not repeat the mistakes of the Trump administration,” Naureen Shah, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

One longstanding requirement that has delayed some releases is forcing sponsors to pay for airfares.

“Facilities have told families that they will not release a child unless they specifically go to a specific travel agency and purchase tickets,” said Dr. Amy Cohen, executive director of the advocacy group Every Last One.

In one case this week, Cohen said, staff at a facility told a woman that she would have to bring a certified check to the airport in order to collect her child, who has been in an HHS facility for three weeks.


AJ News
Get the latest news here first.

Tai News

Newsletter
Read More
Abortion care and transgender health care are ‘parallel struggles’ in 2024 legislation

Abortion care and transgender health care are ‘parallel struggles’ in 2024 legislation

By Danielle J. Brown, Maryland Matters - February 16, 2024
Jackson bill seeks to lower the price of insulin, ease access for nonprofit manufacturers

Jackson bill seeks to lower the price of insulin, ease access for nonprofit manufacturers

By Evan Popp, Maine Morning Star - February 14, 2024
Oregon lawmakers look for ways to curb prescription costs 

Oregon lawmakers look for ways to curb prescription costs 

By Ben Botkin, Oregon Capital Chronicle - February 12, 2024
Hispanic and teen fertility rates increase after abortion restrictions

Hispanic and teen fertility rates increase after abortion restrictions

By Eleanor Klibanoff, Texas Tribune - January 26, 2024
Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

By Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance - December 06, 2023
For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - December 04, 2023
AJ News
Latest
Republican Eric Hovde makes inconsistent statements about family history

Republican Eric Hovde makes inconsistent statements about family history

By Jesse Valentine - February 26, 2024
Republican David McCormick invests millions in website that platforms Holocaust denial

Republican David McCormick invests millions in website that platforms Holocaust denial

By Jesse Valentine - February 09, 2024
Lawmakers will again take up bills expanding, tightening gun laws

Lawmakers will again take up bills expanding, tightening gun laws

By Annmarie Timmins, New Hampshire Bulletin - January 31, 2024
UAW delivers rousing presidential endorsement for Biden over ‘scab’ Trump

UAW delivers rousing presidential endorsement for Biden over ‘scab’ Trump

By Ashley Murray, States Newsroom - January 24, 2024
Republicans Sam Brown and Jeff Gunter sling mud in Nevada senate primary

Republicans Sam Brown and Jeff Gunter sling mud in Nevada senate primary

By Jesse Valentine - January 17, 2024
A Young Texas Woman Almost Died Due To The Texas Abortion Bans – Now She’s Battling To Save Other Women

A Young Texas Woman Almost Died Due To The Texas Abortion Bans – Now She’s Battling To Save Other Women

By Bonnie Fuller - January 10, 2024
Health care legislation preview: Maryland advocates want to focus on access, patients in 2024 session

Health care legislation preview: Maryland advocates want to focus on access, patients in 2024 session

By Danielle J. Brown, Maryland Matters - January 08, 2024
How GOP senate hopefuls try to excuse the  January 6 insurrection

How GOP senate hopefuls try to excuse the  January 6 insurrection

By Jesse Valentine - January 05, 2024
NH lawmakers will be taking up major voting bills this year. Here are some to watch for.

NH lawmakers will be taking up major voting bills this year. Here are some to watch for.

By Ethan DeWitt, New Hampshire Bulletin - January 04, 2024
Republican US Senate candidates want to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent 

Republican US Senate candidates want to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent 

By Jesse Valentine - December 22, 2023
Rand Paul went all in on the Kentucky governor’s race. It didn’t work.

Rand Paul went all in on the Kentucky governor’s race. It didn’t work.

By - December 15, 2023
Texas governor and attorney general do little to curb state’s chemical plant crisis

Texas governor and attorney general do little to curb state’s chemical plant crisis

By Jesse Valentine - December 08, 2023
Likely GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde proposed tax hike for poorer workers and retirees

Likely GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde proposed tax hike for poorer workers and retirees

By Jesse Valentine - December 07, 2023
Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

By Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance - December 06, 2023
105 Republicans voted to expel Santos for things Trump has also done

105 Republicans voted to expel Santos for things Trump has also done

By Jesse Valentine - December 05, 2023
For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - December 04, 2023
Florida Sen. Rick Scott backs Donald Trump in revived push to repeal Obamacare

Florida Sen. Rick Scott backs Donald Trump in revived push to repeal Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - November 30, 2023
Tate Reeves took donations from power company that hiked customer rates

Tate Reeves took donations from power company that hiked customer rates

By Jesse Valentine - November 06, 2023
Daniel Cameron ran on depoliticizing the Kentucky AG’s office. He made it more political.

Daniel Cameron ran on depoliticizing the Kentucky AG’s office. He made it more political.

By Jesse Valentine - November 03, 2023
Republican operatives sound every alarm on current trajectory of 2023 governor’s race

Republican operatives sound every alarm on current trajectory of 2023 governor’s race

By Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today - October 24, 2023
Follow the money: Tim Sheehy takes thousands from drug company lobbyists

Follow the money: Tim Sheehy takes thousands from drug company lobbyists

By Jesse Valentine - February 29, 2024
Judge behind Alabama embryo ruling has ties to Ted Cruz

Judge behind Alabama embryo ruling has ties to Ted Cruz

By Jesse Valentine - February 29, 2024
Telehealth abortions on the rise since Dobbs, new report shows

Telehealth abortions on the rise since Dobbs, new report shows

By Sofia Resnick, States Newsroom - February 28, 2024
Utah lawmakers want to repeal abortion clinic ban hoping it will speed up trigger law case

Utah lawmakers want to repeal abortion clinic ban hoping it will speed up trigger law case

By Katie McKellar, Utah News Dispatch - February 27, 2024
Republican Bernie Moreno opposes existence of minimum wage

Republican Bernie Moreno opposes existence of minimum wage

By Jesse Valentine - February 23, 2024