Under US law, children are only allowed to stay in these jail-like border facilities for 72 hours before they are placed under the care of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Another official said this was a sign that the Biden government’s efforts had “dramatically turned” the situation of unaccompanied children at the border. Biden administration officials spoke to reporters in the background during a virtual press conference. Administration officials also touted progress in reducing the number of children in customs and border detention, which has fallen from a high of more than 5,500 at the end of March to between 600 and 750 currently, depending on the day, the first official said.
According to the latest data from the federal government, 749 children were in CBP detention on Wednesday.
HHS has also cut the time it takes to reunite children with godparents from an average of 42 days to an average of 30 days, another official said.
To cut time, HHS implemented virtual case management, trained additional case managers, and updated guidelines to expedite the release of children to their verified parents or guardians.
Despite progress in reducing the time children spend in state detention, border crossings have remained high over the past month.
“April data will be released shortly. However, we continue to see large flows of migrants on our southern border,” said another official.
Officials also briefed on the reunification of families separated on the border under the Trump administration. These were announced on Monday by the Department of Homeland Security and should take place this week.
According to officials, three out of four families have been reunited so far, including mothers from Honduras and Mexico.
These are the first families to be separated under the Trump administration and reunited under the Biden administration, but hundreds of families still remain separated.
A woman who was separated from her children in late 2017 after escaping Honduras with them was reunited with them on Tuesday, a government official said. Another woman from Mexico, who was separated from her son in late 2017, was also reunited with her child on Tuesday, the official said.
The other families reuniting this week are from Guatemala. One was reunited on Wednesday and the “other is still in progress,” the official said, adding, “but this is just the beginning. We still have a lot to do.”
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