Number of migrant children in US custody passed 15,000: report

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The number of migrant children in U.S. custody has passed 15,000, CBS News reported Saturday.

Records reviewed by the network showed that the government has about 15,500 unaccompanied migrant minors in U.S. custody. Over 5,000 unaccompanied minors are currently held in a tent holding facility run by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other stations along the U.S.-Mexico Border as of Saturday morning.

Mark Weber, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirmed to CBS that HHS is housing nearly 10,500 unaccompanied minors in emergency housing facilities and shelters licensed by states.

The news outlet reported that unaccompanied migrant children are spending 136 hours on average in CBP custody, passing the legal time limit of 72 hours.

CBS further reported that border officials have encountered over 500 unaccompanied minors per day over the past 21 days. The number of encounters are expected to top the 9,400 minors that entered custody in February.

The report comes as the Biden administration faces criticism for its handling of a large surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Republicans blamed the surge on President Biden’s shift from former President Trump’s hard-line immigration policies.

However, refugee advocates and journalists have demanded more transparency around child migrant facilities to inspect and assess conditions on the ground. There have been no public photos taken thus far in the buildings where thousands of children are being kept during the Biden administration. 

However, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed to The Hill on Saturday that they will start placing some migrant families in hotels after signing an over $80 million contract with Texas-based non-profit Endeavors to “provide temporary shelter and processing services for families who have not been expelled and are therefore placed in immigration proceedings for their removal from the United States.”

An administration official said Thursday that 14,000 minors were in federal custody. That number included over 9,500 in HHS’s care and 4,500 held by CBP.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas led a bipartisan group of senators to El Paso, Texas, on Friday to receive a briefing on how children are processed and sheltered.

Regarding CBS’ sreport, CBP told The Hill that it doesn’t provide daily in-custody numbers because they are considered “operationally sensitive” since they constantly fluctuate. However, it noted that border patrol stations aren’t meant to be permanent.

The agency further said that when an unaccompanied minor presents themselves at the border, CBP prioritizes them for processing, and then coordinates with HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) for housing.

The agency said it’s working closely with ORR, and that the focus was to move unaccompanied minors as quickly as possible. 

The Hill has reached out to HHS for comment.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Customs and Border Protection Department of Homeland Security Department ofHealth and Human Services Donald Trump Joe Biden Mexico United States

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