Washington: Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, has said that President Joe Biden’s administration inherited “a broken system at the border”, amid the recent surge of the number of migrant children detained on the country’s southern border.
“What the administration has inherited is a broken system at the border, and they are working to correct that in the children’s interest,” The Hill news website quoted Pelosi as saying on ABC News on Sunday.
She called the grim situation a “humanitarian challenge to all of us”.
Pelosi’s statement came a day after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help “safely receive, shelter, and transfer unaccompanied children” detained by authorities while trying to enter the country.
A day earlier, the Biden administration announced the termination of an agreement reached during Donald Trump’s presidency that allowed the DHS and Department of Health and Human Services to share information on potential sponsors for migrant children with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Ending the Trump-era policy means that a family member or sponsor looking to reunite with an unaccompanied child in the government’s care would not face any immigration enforcement consequences.
Hailing’s the DHS’ move, Pelosi told ABC News on Sunday: “I’m so pleased that the President, as a temporary measure, has sent FEMA to the border in order to help facilitate the children going from the 72-hour issue into where they are cared for as they are transferred into family homes or homes that are safe for them to be.”
She called the actions a “transition for what went wrong before to what is right”, adding that “there are certain responsibilities that we must honour”.
“We have to have a system that accommodates that, and that is what the Biden administration is in the process of doing,” Pelosi added.
The New York Times, citing internal government documents, reported last week that the number of unaccompanied migrant children detained along the southern border has tripled in the last two weeks to more than 3,250, of which 1,360 have been detained beyond the mandatory 72-hour limit permitted by US law.
Pressured by reporters at recent news briefings, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has refused to confirm the numbers, saying Biden had been briefed on the situation, and the priority was to quickly transfer the kids from the detention facilities to shelters with better accommodation.
Roberta Jacobson, the administration’s coordinator for the southern border, acknowledged that the situation has put the government in a dilemma.
“It is difficult at times to convey both hope in the future and the danger that is now,” She told a press briefing last week.