The Biden administration is paying the travel costs for adult sponsors to pick up unaccompanied children (UACs) in migrant facilities – as the administration scrambles to cope with the surge at the southern border.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirmed to Fox News that its Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) was authorized on March 22 to begin paying for travel costs for sponsors to pick up children in ORR care. The development was first reported by Axios.
It had already started to use government funds to pay to transport minors to sponsors in February. An HHS spokesperson said the transport of children to sponsors is a “normal part” of the UAC program’s operations. It has been estimated that the U.S. is spending at least $60 million a week to house unaccompanied children. There are currently more than 20,000 in HHS custody.
It is not clear how many adults, some of whom will be illegal immigrants themselves, are having their travel costs paid by the taxpayer, but the movement is the latest sign of the dramatic, and costly, moves by the Biden administration to stem the crisis at the southern border.
More than 172,000 migrants were encountered by authorities in March alone. Among those were 18,890 unaccompanied children – a 100% increase from the already high numbers encountered in February, and the highest number recorded.
The Washington Post reported that more than 40% of the minors released by the government have at least one parent already living in the United States.
The crisis has led to the administration rapidly opening border facilities to cope with the influx, with a number being opened along the border – including the use of military bases.
But critics have accused the Biden administration of creating the crisis with its policies. In particular, the decision by the administration not to apply Title 42 public health protections – which allow migrants to be quickly removed – to unaccompanied children has been blamed for the increase in minors.
Smugglers have used groups of child migrants to divert Border Patrol so they can get adults through a different part of the border when officials are overwhelmed, while images of children being dumped at the border alone by smugglers have been released.
Border Patrol last month released images of a 3-year-old and 5-year-old being dropped over a wall and left alone by a smuggler.
Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility announced this week that the girls were recently reunited with their family. The Ecuadorian consulate in Houston had previously said the girls’ parents live in New York City.