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Unaccompanied Children at the Southwest Border

At the direction of President Barack Obama and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate is coordinating a government-wide response to address the needs of an influx of unaccompanied children crossing into the United States creating a humanitarian situation along the southwest U.S. border. As the lead coordinating agency, FEMA is leveraging the capabilities of the federal government to support U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), who have the lead roles in addressing the immediate needs of unaccompanied children.

On Oct. 9, 2014 Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson delivered remarks entitled, “Border Security in the 21st Century” where he laid out direction for a common, Department-wide Southern campaign plan.  “Our overarching goals will be effective enforcement and interdiction across land, sea, and air; degrade transnational criminal organizations; and do these things without impeding the flow of lawful trade, travel, and commerce across our borders,” said Secretary Johnson.

This chart depicts the general process to enhance capacity resulting from federal coordination.  Step 1: After arrival in U.S., child is identified, undergoes initial health screening and immigration processing to initiate removal proceedings.  Step 2: Child may be transferred to short term multi-agency center where HHS provides medical check, immunizations and shelter assignment.  Step 3: Child travels to HHS shelter assignment.  Transportation is provided by DHS.  Step 4: Child remains in HHS shelter until a sponsor is identified on a case-by-case basis.  Step 5: Child is placed with a relative or other sponsor in the U.S. pending outcome of the immigration process.

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Last Updated: 05/15/2023
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