With a rising number of children held at the U.S.-Mexico border over the past month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced in a statement Saturday that it had called on Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide assistance for the next 90 days "to safely receive, shelter, and transfer unaccompanied children who make the dangerous journey to the U.S. southwest border." 

DHS said that the government would move unaccompanied children from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to the Department of Health and Human Services and "place them with a family member or sponsor until their immigration is adjudicated" within 72 hours.

FEMA mostly responds to natural disasters. FEMA’s job will be to “help receive, shelter and transport the children” who are unaccompanied. 

A FEMA spokesperson told CBS News that the agency would “quickly expand capacity for safe and appropriate shelter, and to provide food, water and basic medical care."

DHS said that there are thousands of unaccompanied migrant teens and children packed into detention cells and tent shelters. Overcrowding at holding facilities has ensued after 3,200 children were found being held as of March 8, BBC News reported

The move comes after DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced on March 1 that the Biden administration would explore "lawful pathways" to allow migrant families separated under the Trump administration to reunite in the U.S.

"Our goal is to ensure that unaccompanied children are transferred to HHS as quickly as possible, consistent with legal requirements and in the best interest of the children," Mayorkas said Saturday. 

Mayorkas praised Border Patrol, saying he was "incredibly proud of the agents" that have been working long hours and added that "a Border Patrol facility is no place for a child."

He also stated that this situation at the U.S.-Mexico border isn’t a crisis quite yet, but it’s “overwhelming.” 

February saw a 21-month high of unaccompanied minors of 9,457 and the facilities' basic needs are reportedly dwindling. NPR reported Thursday that "a record number of minors are being held in warehouse-like detention facilities run by Customs and Border Protection."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday said the border crisis, "is a humanitarian challenge to all of us."

Migrants trying to get into the United States protested at the border with Mexico, begging to be allowed to start the asylum process Migrants trying to get into the United States protested at the border with Mexico, begging to be allowed to start the asylum process Photo: AFP / Guillermo Arias