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Homeland Security Establishes Inter-Agency Group to Deal With Massive Wave of Unaccompanied Illegal Immigrant Children Into the U.S.

This Oct. 2, 2012 file photo shows U.S. Border Patrol agents patrolling the border fence near Naco, Ariz. In the midst of a national conversation about immigration reform, where questions of border security figure heavily, the Obama administration switched from daily declarations that the border with Mexico is as secure as it's ever been to warning of the increasingly dire implications of hacking $754 million from Customs and Border Protection among nearly $3 billion from the Department of Homeland Security in the remaining half of the fiscal year. (Credit: AP)

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced Tuesday the formation of an inter-agency group to address the wave of thousands of unaccompanied children coming illegally into the United States over the past eight months that has resulted in what the administration describes as a "humanitarian crisis."

FILE - This March 18, 2014 file photo shows Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson speaking in Washington. Reviewing the U.S. deportation policy, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is said to be weighing limiting deportations of immigrants living here illegally but without serious criminal records. The change could shield tens of thousands of immigrants now deported because of repeated violations such as disobeying a deportation order or missing a court date. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File) AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File This March 18, 2014 file photo shows Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson speaking in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File)

The administration is establishing the Unified Coordination Group based on a provision of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and that calls for the establishment of an oversight group in the case of such a crisis, Johnson said.

Johnson appointed Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate to head the group to "ensure that federal agencies are unified in providing relief to the affected children," he said in a statement.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will continue to maintain primary responsibility for border security, working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to care for unaccompanied children "when they are temporarily in DHS custody."

"DHS will continue to coordinate closely with the Departments of Health and Human Services, State, Defense, the General Services Administration and other agencies, to ensure a coordinated and rapid government-wide response in the short-term and to undertake broader, longer-term reforms to address the root cause behind these recent migration trends," Johnson said.

More than 47,000 children have entered the United States illegally over the past eight months, with the continuing influx overwhelming holding facilities in Texas and Arizona. More than 1,000 children will be moved to a facility in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The other two locations housing unaccompanied children are Joint Base San Antonio in Texas and Naval Base Ventura County in California.

Members of the Senate on Tuesday proposed spending $1 billion to pay for health care services for illegal immigrant children.

Follow Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) on Twitter

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