The Obama administration announced a plan Monday to address the growing number of Central American children and teenagers crossing the U.S. border alone.
President Barack Obama called it, “An urgent humanitarian situation requiring a unified and coordinated Federal response,” in a memo.
To that end, he has tasked the Federal Emergency Management Administration with coordinating the federal government’s response.
The number of unaccompanied children crossing the border increased more than 90 percent this year compared to last year, said White House Domestic Policy Director Cecilia Muñoz.
“It also includes more girls than we have seen in previous years, and more children under the age of 13 compared with previous years,” Muñoz told reporters on a press call.
From October through the end of April, U.S. Border Patrol made more than 36,000 apprehensions of unaccompanied children border-wide. About 25,000 of those apprehensions were made in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is in charge of housing these children in shelters, but the high volume in recent months means there’s isn’t enough room.
Mark Greenberg of the HHS's Administration for Children and Families announced a temporary solution.
“We have reached out to the Department of Defense for additional help on a temporary basis for housing those children,” Greenberg said.
A couple weeks ago the administration began housing children at San Antonio’s Lackland Air Force Base. The capacity there is 1,200. A naval base in Ventura County, Calif., could house up to 600 child migrants as early as Friday.
Muñoz said the influx of unaccompanied minors is due to economic conditions and increasing violence in their home countries. In some cases children are crossing the border to reunite with family members already in the United States.
In a statement, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said the Obama administration is to blame for the influx of child migrants. He claims they were drawn here by lax immigration policies.