Amid surge, US tries to expedite release of migrant children

HOUSTON (AP) — With the Biden administration's long-term immigrant children facilities almost complete, it is working to expedite the return of children to their families in the United States.

U.S. Health and Human Services approved long-term carriers on Wednesday to pay for certain child flights and travel in their sponsors' homes.

In compliance with the agency's existing rules, sponsors will be paid for these flights and be charged until the government releases children, even though the government has vetted their sponsors.

Often these costs can surpass $1,000 per child.

An internal notice sent Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press permits facilities operators to make use of the government's funding for the transportation fee "in the event that a sponsor is unable to pay commercial airfare charges, or the physical release of a child would be delayed otherwise.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, HHS has reduced its ability significantly.

Almost all of the 7,100 beds for immigrant children in the department are complete.

Meanwhile, border patrol officers arrest more than 200 children a day, on average, from the border without an adult.

HHS opened an emergency shelter for up to 700 young people in Carrizo Springs, Texas, and could soon open another location in Homestead, Florida.

Although the beds, classrooms and dining areas do not follow the same licensing standards as normal hospitals, surgery costs an extra $775 per child per day.

During the presidency of former President Donald Trump the Democrats harshly criticized them and reports about Carrizo Springs' opening up angered both Democrats and Republicans who contend that Trump has been wrongly blamed.

Experts on immigrant children's custody say HHS must reduce pressure on the overall structure by improving its workings and that the opening of emergency services would not address the root concerns.

"While we recognize the efforts of the Biden administration to treat unaccompanied children with responsible responsibilities, addressing public health needs, and priority for the safety of children, it is critical not to repeat the Trump administration's mistakes," said Naureen Shah, the US Civil Liberties Attorney, in a statement.

One of the long-standing conditions that has postponed certain launches is that airfares be charged by supporters.

"Facilities told families they wouldn't release a child if they didn't go specifically to a certain travel agency and buy a ticket," said Dr Amy Cohen, Executive Director of the Every Last One advocacy organization.

In one instance this week, Cohen told a mother that she will have to carry a verified check to the airport to retrieve her child who is in an HHS facility for three weeks.