FEMA’s New Project is Migrant Children at the Border – How Much Will That Cost Taxpayers?

Back of a border patrol truck driving on a dirt road along the Mexican border in Arizona, with mountains in the background.
Phototreat / Getty Images/iStockphoto

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is taking over the processing of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexican border. A record number of unaccompanied children have been showing up at the border, CNBC reports. Turning the work over to FEMA will keep the children out of the Customs and Border Patrol’s enforcement system. Adults and accompanied children will be returned to Mexico.

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There are now over 3,200 unaccompanied minors in Border Patrol detention. FEMA will work with volunteers to place them with relatives or sponsors.

The Border Patrol’s detention facilities were designed for adults, especially those suspected of criminal activities. They are not set up to care for children who are waiting for hearings or the arrival of family members. The FEMA program will put these kids in a far more appropriate setting.

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In addition to the humanitarian benefits of the FEMA intervention, it will save taxpayers money. In 2018, CNBC reported that it costs Immigration and Customs Enforcement $133.67 per day per person to detain an adult migrant at the border. The cost of “tent city” facilities for children built during the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration worked out to $775 per day per person, while sending children to local juvenile facilities costs an average of $139.40 per day per person.

Although the Biden administration has not called the number of unaccompanied minors at the border a crisis, it is certainly concerning. Getting the children into housing that meets their needs is a good step toward managing it.

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