Over 20,000 Migrant Youngsters Are Now In U.S. Custody — However Most Aren’t Staying In Cramped Border Patrol Tents

Top line

The number of unaccompanied migrant children in the United States exceeded 20,000 on Tuesday as border crossings continue to expand, but federal officials have gradually started moving children from overcrowded makeshift facilities on the border to shelters.

Minors speak to an agent outside in a capsule at a Department of Homeland Security facility … [+] Donna, Texas, March 30th.

POOL / AFP via Getty Images

Key factors

According to data released Wednesday, there were around 20,273 unaccompanied minors in federal custody as of Tuesday, an 11% increase from a week earlier.

About 79% of these children lived in emergency shelters operated by Health and Human Services, often in unusual temporary spaces such as convention centers and military bases, and the other 21% – over 4,200 children – were detained by Border Patrol, which often houses minors cramped adult holding centers.

This is a shift from last Tuesday when nearly 29% of the country’s unaccompanied minors – or nearly 5,300 children – were in border custody.

What to look for

More unaccompanied minors. In the past month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has brought around 500 children across the border without their parents every day.

Big number

19,000. That many unaccompanied minors were caught on the southern border last month, twice as many as in February and more than three times as many as in January. This is based on preliminary figures received from several news outlets.

Key background

Typically, Border Patrol is supposed to send unaccompanied minors to HHS-run shelters as soon as possible, and HHS will look after them until the federal government locates a parent or other adult sponsor in the US. This system collapsed after this year’s border crossing: HHS had only a few protective beds left and thousands of children were stranded on sleeping mats in Spartan Border Patrol facilities that were supposed to accommodate far fewer people. As a result, HHS has made an effort to add thousands of extra beds by opening emergency shelters.

Crucial quote

“As I have said repeatedly, a border guard is not a place for a child,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, Minister for Homeland Security, last week. “We worked around the clock in coordination with HHS to get unaccompanied children quickly out of these overcrowded border guards and into the care of HHS.”

further reading

Biden Administration enables access to the migrant children’s home for the first time – this is what it looked like (Forbes)

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