However, the Biden government has not yet addressed any of the more problematic bottlenecks in the border system: the quick and safe release of minors from shelters to verified sponsors in the US. The process is a balance between making sure the children are released into safe situations and trying to minimize the time they spend in government detention, said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, executive director of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
The Biden administration also said that many sponsors feared requiring minors after the health department was forced to share background information about all adults in a child’s future household with Immigration and Customs Enforcement following a Trump-era program. President Biden has withdrawn the program.
On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services said the prison term improved significantly from an average of 42 days when Mr Biden took office to what is now about a month. 775 children were released from state custody on Thursday, about 300 more than last week. However, border officials report that more case managers are needed to get the children out of government custody, even though federal agents from other agencies have already been deployed to fill in the loopholes.
The Ministry of Health and Human Services also said there was no immediate risk of running out of money to care for migrant children. The additional $ 850 million the program received this week is meant to cover pandemic-related costs for testing and other precautionary measures. And the need for additional funding isn’t a new problem, the department said, pointing to a request from the Trump administration worth nearly $ 3 billion in 2019 when there was a similar influx of migrants.
“The Unaccompanied Child Program has long relied on financial transfers to accomplish its mission. This year there will be additional costs to rebuild a decimated system while taking pandemic-related safeguards such as testing and social distancing, ”said Mark Weber, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, in a statement Friday.
Mr Biden blames the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies for the fact that his team is ill-equipped to handle the surge in migration this spring. When large numbers of migrants – mainly from Central America fleeing poverty, violence and natural disasters – came to the southwestern border, the government did not have enough shelter to safely house children who had arrived alone.
The Biden administration has not yet asked Congress for an emergency spending bill that could detract from Senate Democrats’ efforts to pass an immigration bill. A 2019 motion for more funding for the border situation sparked a fierce battle in Congress, and a new motion would most likely fuel criticism from Republicans who have made it clear that they intend to take advantage of Mr Biden’s border policy, to strengthen her party’s base before the midterm elections.