DHS will request authority to deport unaccompanied migrant children

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The Department of Homeland Security will request additional funding and broader authority to deport unaccompanied migrant children.

In a copy of a letter that agency secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will reportedly send to Congress soon, the DHS chief said that the limit on their ability to deport children is serving as “another dangerous ‘pull’ factor” for immigrants entering the country illegally.

DHS confirmed the existence of the letter when asked by The Hill. NBC News first reported Nielsen’s letter on Thursday{mosads}

Under U.S. law, children who enter the U.S. from non-contiguous countries, a term that effective encompasses Central America, are transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which then attempts to unite them with a relative or sponsor in the country.

“The result is that hundreds of Central American children come into our custody each day, await transfer to (Health and Human Services) care, and, ultimately are placed with a sponsor in the United States,” Nielsen reportedly wrote in her letter, which was obtained by NBC.

The outlet reported that Nielsen’s letter is expected to be delivered to lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Thursday night.

Nielsen’s letter noted that a legislative proposal was needed to address “root causes of the emergency.”

Her solution also includes emergency funds to deal with the migrant flow, including what Nielsen predicts to be thousands of shelter beds for unaccompanied migrant children. 

HHS, which is responsible for sheltering unaccompanied children, “is still approaching its maximum capacity and will very likely require thousands of additional beds in the coming weeks and months,” the letter said.

The letter comes one day after Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said the U.S. immigration system has reached a “breaking point” as immigrant family crossing have hit record highs.

The Trump administration’s previous efforts to curb illegal immigration have been met with sharp backlash. 

The administration last year drew intense scrutiny after it enforced a “zero tolerance” immigration policy that resulted in thousands of migrant children being separated from their parents. An estimated 2,000 families were split apart before the policy was halted. 

Trump ended his administration’s zero tolerance policy with an executive order after facing prolonged bipartisan pressure to halt the separation of migrant families.

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