150 Unaccompanied Children from Southern Border Arrived in Pennsylvania
Approximately 150 unaccompanied children found at the southern U.S. border have arrived in northwestern Pennsylvania. They will be housed in a dormitory at Pennsylvania International Academy. Governors of Iowa and Nebraska refused to house the refugee children.
The children arrived on the night of April 13 at Erie International Airport where the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had arranged for physicians, nurses, and dentists to screen them. Customs Border and Patrol (CBP) must transfer unaccompanied children to HHS within 72 hours of their detention.
Housing for Unaccompanied Children
Pennsylvania International Academy has been designated as the emergency intake site. The dormitory has 648 rooms, and six children are assigned to each room. The U.S. government expects more children to arrive in the future.
Sister Linda Yankoski, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh-based Holy Family Institute also has received children from the border at its facility. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie said that volunteers will help with laundry, meals, and sorting of clothes and toys. Individuals who have clearance will be allowed to interact with the children.
Children to Be Released to Sponsors
A spokesperson from HHS said most of the children have relatives in the United States. Efforts will be made to locate relatives and to connect them with the refugee children. Children are released to their sponsors, who are usually parents or close relatives. Children will also pursue their cases in the immigration courts.
Increase in Refugee Children Flocking to the U.S. Border
Nearly 19,000 refugee children were found to be traveling alone across the Mexican border in March, the largest number ever found on the border. In May 2019, 11,475 children were found at the border, and in June 2014, there were 10,620 children.
The increase in the number of children on the border could be because the Biden administration exempted unaccompanied children from pandemic-related powers to immediately expel most people from the country. The unaccompanied children must be given an opportunity to file their asylum cases.
In February, HHS opened its first temporary holding facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, to accommodate the increase in the children arriving at the border. HHS has since signed several agreements to utilize large facilities near the border. Facilities have been opened at a convention center in San Diego, a stadium in San Antonio, and Fort Bliss army base in El Paso, Texas. To limit the children’s time in the government custody, HHS has also been paying for flights for children to travel to their sponsors.
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