President Barack Obama called the influx of unaccompanied minors, UAC (unaccompanied alien children) crossing the southwest border U.S.-Mexico an “urgent humanitarian situation” and directed federal officials to lead a “unified and coordinated” response said in a memorandum released.
Obama also stated in the memorandum that he has directed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to establish an interagency group of individuals who will provide humanitarian relief to unaccompanied minors. This includes providing the minors with housing, care, medical treatment and transportation.
Johnson said DHS will “coordinate closely” with a number of federal agencies to deal with the surge in migrant children crossing the border alone. Among the agencies are the departments of State, Defense and Health and Human Services.
Studies show many unaccompanied minors make the long journey to the U.S. to escape violence and abuse in their native countries. Most of them are between the ages of 12 and 17 and come from Central American countries like Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
When unaccompanied minors are caught attempting to cross the border, they are apprehended by Border Patrol officials and transferred to shelters operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
At these shelters, children are given food, clothes, medical care and an education. They are also assigned a case manager and an attorney to help them obtain immigration relief to remain in the U.S.
The Obama administration is also working closely with the governments of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to reduce the number of unaccompanied children traveling to the U.S.