The Biden administration is asking US Department of Agriculture employees to abandon their day jobs and volunteer for months-long stints at the US-Mexico border, despite repeatedly insisting that the influx of unaccompanied minors has not reached ‘crisis’ levels.
The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offered employees an ‘informational unaccompanied minors’ session last week ‘to learn more about volunteer detail opportunities for employees’, according to an email obtained by The Spectator. Volunteers would be responsible for working directly with migrant children to interview them for their legal cases and help connect them with adult sponsors residing in the United States.
‘These are children in need and government employees now have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of these children, families and communities impacted by this migration,’ Terry Cosby, acting chief of the NRCS, wrote in the email, dated April 22. ‘I urge you to seriously consider answering this call to service to make a difference.’
The Department of Agriculture confirmed to The Spectator that they will be sending 500 employees to the border as part of the volunteer program, which is being conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The USDA said that the temporary loss of these staffers would not affect day-to-day operations.
‘Those who are accepted to volunteer will work with their supervisors to ensure their duties are assigned to other staff for the duration of the volunteer assignment ensuring continuity of service; some will perform a portion of their duties remotely,’ the USDA said in a statement. ‘We expect no disruption in service to our customers while we answer the call to assist with this critical humanitarian effort. USDA’s total commitment will be approximately 500 staff from a pool of 100,000+ total USDA workers.’
The Biden administration first asked government employees to volunteer for assignments at the US-Mexico border at the end of March, citing ‘urgent efforts to care for and place Unaccompanied Children who have entered the United States via the southern border.’ The volunteers will receive their regular government salary as well as a per diem and reimbursement for all travel and lodging.
HHS and the White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Volunteers will be expected to work 12-hour shifts daily, including weekends, for a period of several weeks to as long as three months. According to a FAQ sheet from the Office of Refugee Resettlement obtained by The Spectator, volunteers should not expect formal training before conducting interviews with unaccompanied migrant children, many of whom are the victims of severe trauma.
‘Support personnel should not expect formal, classroom-based training classes up front as the need for help is immediate,’ the document explains. ‘Rather, support personnel can expect a three-step training process: 1) Badging. 2) Orientation and 3) Shift Scheduling.’
These relatively untrained employees will be responsible for conducting eight to 12 interviews daily with children who ‘have experienced very difficult, sad, or scary things while they were in their home country or on the journey to the United States,’ the ORR says. ‘Common traumatic experiences that unaccompanied children report include gang violence, sexual abuse, domestic violence, physical abuse, being separated for a long time from parents, and witnessing the death or suffering of people they love.’
Despite the Biden administration’s aggressive posturing about the spread of coronavirus, including limiting the number of journalists allowed at the White House each day and making many of them pay for their own COVID tests, volunteers for the HHS program will not need to provide a negative COVID test nor proof of vaccination prior to deployment.
Even as the administration scrambles to staff up the border with poorly trained bureaucrats, officials have insisted that they are not dealing with a ‘crisis’. After President Joe Biden used the term to describe the situation in mid-April, White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested he misspoke.
‘The President does not feel that children coming to our border seeking refuge from violence, economic hardships and other dire circumstances is a crisis,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. ‘He does feel that the crisis in Central America, the dire circumstances that many are fleeing from – that that is a situation we need to spend our time on, our effort on.’
Psaki previously claimed that the high influx of minors is ‘not a crisis’ but a ‘circumstance.’
US Customs and Border Protection encountered nearly 19,000 unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border in March alone.