Office of Refugee Resettlement Holds Emergency Conference Call to Find Housing for Overflow Unaccompanied Alien Children

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The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is holding a series of emergency conference calls with all departments and agencies of the federal government requiring them to search for and vet “properties to temporarily house [unaccompanied alien children]” because “the need for facilities continues to grow.”

“Your name was provided as a participant in the Facility Task Force (FTF) for the Unaccompanied Children (UC) activities which is a whole of government group that searches for and vets properties to temporarily house UC,” an email sent on October 26 to more than 30 officials with federal departments and agencies by Office of Refugee Resettlement [ORR] Associate Deputy Director Tricia Swartz began.

“In conjunction with FEMA and per the Presidential Directive from June 2014, the FTF is embarking on a two week sprint to identify properties within the federal government. We are asking for your immediate assistance in this effort as the need for facilities continues to grow,” the email continued.

On June 2, 2014, the Obama administration released a Presidential Memorandum, Response to the Influx of Unaccompanied Alien Children Across the Southwest Border, “for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies,” which stated, “The influx of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) across the southwest border of the United States has resulted in an urgent humanitarian situation requiring a unified and coordinated Federal response”:

Accordingly, I have directed the Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) to establish an interagency Unified Coordination Group to ensure unity of effort across the executive branch in responding to the humanitarian aspects of this situation, consistent with the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and Homeland Security Presidential Directive-5 (Management of Domestic Incidents)(HSPD-5), including coordination with State, local, and other nonfederal entities.

The Secretary shall establish and manage this Unified Coordination Group. . . The Secretary has advised me that he will direct the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Administrator), subject to the oversight, direction, and guidance of the Secretary, to serve as the Federal Coordinating Official who shall lead and coordinate the Unified Coordination Group consistent with the functions of the Administrator . . . As the Federal Coordinating Official, the Administrator (or his designee) shall lead and coordinate Federal response efforts to ensure that Federal agency authorities and the resources granted to the departments and agencies under Federal law (including personnel, equipment, supplies, facilities, and managerial, technical, and advisory services) are unified in providing humanitarian relief to the affected children, including housing, care, medical treatment, and transportation.

Though the June 2014 Presidential directive references “the influx of unaccompanied alien children (UAC),” Swartz’s October 26 email uses a different term to refer to the children: simply “unaccompanied children (UC).” Swartz dropped the word “alien” from her email.

On a conference call Monday to identify new properties for ORR’s use through this Facilities Task Force on Monday, Swartz, who was an executive with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, one of the largest and most politically powerful voluntary agencies (VOLAGs) in the refugee resettlement industry, prior to joining ORR, began with a long roll call of more than thirty cooperating departments and agencies, some of whom were not present but for whom Swartz offered an update.

The roll call included the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, the Department of Treasury, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Energy, the Department of Interior the Veterans Administration, the GSA (General Services Administration), the Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Security Council.

Neither ORR’s Swartz nor any of the bureaucrats representing more than two dozen departments and agencies who participated used the words “unaccompanied illegal alien children,” “unaccompanied children,” “unaccompanied minors,” or “illegal aliens” on the conference call, even though the purpose of the call was to provide the intergovernmental “Facilities Task Force” headed up by ORR (under the direction of FEMA) with a list of federal facilities which can be used on an emergency basis to house the flood of “unaccompanied alien children” who have entered the country illegally.

Only two agencies–the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)–offered new properties for ORR’s use to house unaccompanied illegal alien minors.

FEMA offered an unused facility in South Carolina.

A representative of NOAA said the agency had identified a property on Monday morning it owns in Colorado that has “12 acres, 3,000 square feet, and boat access” that is also “near the Denver airport.”

One representative from NIH suggested using Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, where the Boy Scouts of America held eight consecutive quadrennial national Scout jamborees between 1981 and 2010, to temporarily house the influx of unaccompanied alien children.

But a representative from the Department of Defense quickly discouraged that suggestion, noting that Ft. A.P. Hill is used as a temporary FEMA staging facility when not in use for the Boy Scout Jamboree.

Two additional conference calls will be held later this week.

On Wednesday, the call will focus on older properties previously considered as inappropriate.

Swartz told the participants on the call that the deadline to complete the Facilities Task Force report was this Friday.

The June 2014 Presidential Memorandum directs “All Federal departments and agencies . . . to provide their full and prompt cooperation, resources, and support, as appropriate and consistent with their own responsibilities for addressing this situation, and shall cooperate with the Secretary and the Federal Coordinating Official to ensure a unified Federal response. The Secretary shall lead the coordination of the Federal response to this urgent humanitarian situation and other departments and agencies supporting this effort shall provide support to address this situation as appropriate and to the extent permitted by law.”

Notably, the memorandum “does not obligate any agency to reimburse another agency for the resources used to address the UAC humanitarian situation nor does it limit the use of the Economy Act (31 U.S.C. 1535), as appropriate.”

In other words, the funds to provide these emergency housing services to unaccompanied alien children (UAC) come out of appropriations of the agencies that are required to cooperate, not the appropriations of ORR or FEMA.

As Breitbart News reported recently, “A record number of illegal aliens have crossed the U.S.- Mexico border and are in U.S. Border Patrol custody in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley Sector (RGV), according to the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC).”

Earlier this month, Breitbart News reported:

A report from Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson reveals the number of illegal border crossing apprehensions of Family Units from Central America and Mexico hit the highest level on record.
Family Unit apprehensions set an all-time high with 77,674 crossings in FY 2016.

Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) hit the second highest mark. The 59,692 UACs were second to the 2014 historic mark of 69,970.

You can read the October 26 email from ORR Associate Deputy Director Swartz here:


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