Biden admin asks for government volunteers at the border amid crisis

Biden admin asks for government volunteers at the border amid crisis

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has sent a memo to various heads of government agencies seeking “volunteer deployments” for up to 120 days to help border officials deal with the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border, Fox News has confirmed. 

“We are actively working to screen, process and deploy these volunteers while continuing our recruitment efforts and exploration of other avenues to bolster staff resources at the border,” an OPM spokesperson said. 

Central American migrants who managed to cross illegally into the U.S. in order to seek asylum, wait in line to get a meal from a charitable organization at a park after they were sent back to Mexico by U.S. border authorities in Reynosa, Mexico Friday, March 26, 2021. 

Central American migrants who managed to cross illegally into the U.S. in order to seek asylum, wait in line to get a meal from a charitable organization at a park after they were sent back to Mexico by U.S. border authorities in Reynosa, Mexico Friday, March 26, 2021.  (AP)

Kathleen McGettigan, acting director of OPM, said the federal agency is partnering with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to support the Biden administration’s “urgent efforts” to care for the unaccompanied migrant children who have crossed into the U.S. through the southern border. 

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McGettigan said the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) – an office within HHS – needs federal government civilian employees for deployment of up to 120 days to support ORR at facilities for unaccompanied children. 

The facilities are located along the southwest U.S. border and elsewhere, and include Dallas, San Diego, San Antonio and Fort Bliss. Locations will extend to other geographic areas according to need, McGettigan said in her memo. 

“ORR provides a continuum of care for children, including placements in ORR foster care, shelter, and residential care providers that provide temporary housing and other services to unaccompanied children in ORR custody,” McGettigan said. “ORR and its care providers work to ensure that children are released timely and safely from ORR custody to parents, other family members, or other adults … who can care for the child’s physical and mental well-being. 

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The request for additional personnel comes as border officials have been overwhelmed with an influx of migrants at the border.

Migrants sleep under a gazebo at a park in the Mexican border city of Reynosa, Saturday, March 27, 2021. 

Migrants sleep under a gazebo at a park in the Mexican border city of Reynosa, Saturday, March 27, 2021.  (AP)

As of Thursday, more than 16,000 unaccompanied children were in government custody, including about 5,000 in substandard Customs and Border Protection facilities.

Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been calling on the administration to open the facilities to cameras, asserting that the current policy is designed to keep the public from “fully realizing” what is happening at the border.

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Encounters have averaged about 5,000 people per day throughout March, which would be about a 50% increase over February if those figures hold for the entire month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report