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Government calls on all federal workers to help with unaccompanied migrant children

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Agency says workers will be screened to ensure 'children are safe'

Unaccompanied migrant children are seen being apprehended before dawn on April 6, 2021, in La Joya, Texas. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with a comment from Department of Health and Human Services and a website link for federal employee applicants to apply.)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — As an unprecedented number of unaccompanied migrant youth continue to stream across the Southwest border, the federal government has put out an all-call for workers who can help process the children, and normal background checks might be waived, according to a letter obtained by Border Report.

The March 25 letter by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and OPM are partnering to entice federal workers “to serve up to a 120-day voluntary deployment detail” helping the unaccompanied migrant children.

They are requesting workers to help in Dallas, San Diego, San Antonio and Fort Bliss, Texas.

“The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) needs current Federal government civilian employees for up to 120-day deployment details to support ORR at facilities for unaccompanied children,” read the letter by OPM Acting Director Kathleen McGettigan.

The memorandum, which was sent to all heads of executive departments and agencies says they need “exceptional public servants to lend support to this humanitarian through this detail opportunity.”

On Wednesday, HHS officials announced there were 16,489 children in their care who had crossed the border unsupervised. That included 415 children who were added on Wednesday.

Because of the urgency, traditional “Child Care check investigations that normally are required for federal workers to assist children, can be waived this time,” McGettigan writes.

“We are requesting that agencies support this effort by encouraging supervisors to allow interested staff to volunteer.”

Memo by OPM Acting Director Kathleen McGettingan

“The law does allow an individual to work provisionally before the childcare background investigation is complete so long as the person is ‘within sight and under the supervision of a staff person with respect to whom a background check has been completed.'”

A line of unaccompanied migrant children who were apprehended before dawn on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, are seen with Border Patrol agents in La Joya, Texas. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

On Thursday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials released apprehensions statistics for March that showed a 100% increase in unaccompanied migrant children arriving on the Southwest border

News of the memo came a day after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott accused facilities housing undocumented migrant children in San Antonio of abuse.

Border Report reached out to HHS to ask what safeguard measures would be put in place to protect children and to ensure that all workers sent to this detail are qualified to help children. Late Thursday, HHS responded to questions from Border Report confirming the memo and explaining the need for workers who agency officials said will be screened, writing in an email:

“The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to identify personnel to assist with efforts to care for and place unaccompanied children at the southern border. Last week OPM issued a memo calling for civilian federal employee volunteers for deployment details of up to 120-days. We are actively working to screen, process and deploy these volunteers while continuing our recruitment efforts and exploration of other avenues to bolster staff resources at the border,” according to a statement from the HHS communications department.

“The Biden-Harris Administration will use all available resources to ensure that unaccompanied migrant children (UC) are safe and unified with family members or other suitable sponsors as quickly and safely as possible. We continue to be inspired by the spirit of volunteerism and dedication to public service demonstrated by all those across the Federal government who have supported many response efforts in the past.”

Interested employees must submit application materials at this link.

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