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Over 18,000 Migrant Kids Are Now In U.S. Custody—And The Total Is Growing Every Day

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Topline

Hundreds of children are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without their parents every day, with the number of minors in federal custody topping 18,000 by Thursday, according to federal data—a spike that’s left shelters and holding sites with virtually no extra capacity.

Key Facts

On Thursday, about 12,500 unaccompanied minors were in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which offers shelter beds and works to place children with parents and other sponsors throughout the United States.

Another 5,500 were stuck with Customs and Border Protection, which often holds kids in makeshift facilities designed for adults—children are only supposed to stay with CBP for 72 hours per a court settlement, but some minors have reportedly stayed for longer.

Some 605 unaccompanied minors were caught by CBP Thursday, but just 388 were transferred from CBP, meaning the number of kids in Border Patrol custody is growing.

Big Number

9,457. That’s how many unaccompanied minors were caught crossing the southern border last month, an increase of more than 50% since February and the highest figure since May 2019, according to CBP data.

What To Watch For

CBP says it’s apprehended around 475 kids per day on average over the last 30 days, meaning March is on track to be even busier than February.

Key Background

The total number of migrants caught crossing the southern border jumped 28% last month, and the increase in unaccompanied minors has posed an especially large strain. HHS has struggled to house this influx of minors amid limited shelter space, so thousands of children have been forced to stay in overcrowded tents and other makeshift arrangements operated by CBP, a situation Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)—who visited a CBP site—called “terrible.” HHS is scrambling to relieve this pressure by opening temporary shelters in convention centers, sports arenas and other unconventional places.

Tangent

Starting last year, former President Donald Trump rapidly expelled many children caught crossing the southern border, a controversial policy that pushed minors into dangerous situations and prevented them from applying for asylum, many critics say. President Joe Biden rescinded this policy, meaning the federal government now needs to house all minors.

Further Reading

Amid Border Surge, Migrant Kids Are Being Housed In Arenas, Oil Camps And These Other Unusual Places (Forbes)

Number of migrant children in federal custody jumps by nearly a thousand in one day (CNN)

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