More than 4,200 unaccompanied children were in Border Patrol custody as of Sunday afternoon, NBC News reported Tuesday, forcing children to stay in border facilities longer than the legal limit.
Of the 4,276 unaccompanied minors held, 2,943 had been in custody for longer than the 72-hour maximum, the network reported, with the average stay being 117 hours.
For comparison, as of last Monday there were slightly more than 3,200 unaccompanied minors in Border Patrol custody, which was a record number, NBC reported.
On Saturday alone, Border Patrol encountered 517 unaccompanied minors crossing the border, the network reported. The seven day average for single day encounters was 565, which is more than the average 313 unaccompanied minors encountered last month.
More than 2,600 of the children in custody have been fully processed by Border Patrol officials, ABC News reported, but they are still waiting to be moved to Health and Human Services (HHS) facilities, which are in place to shelter minors.
Overcrowding, measured in pre-pandemic levels, has also spiked, according to ABC News.
In a statement to The Hill on Tuesday, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) "has continued our close coordination with HHS as it increases its capacity to care for unaccompanied minors and place them with sponsors. Our goal is to ensure that CBP has the continued capability to quickly and efficiently transfer unaccompanied minors after they are apprehended to HHS custody, as is required by U.S. law, and as is clearly in the best interest of the children."
“Addressing the flow of unaccompanied children crossing our southwest border is an important priority of this Administration and DHS," it stated. "It requires a whole of government coordinated and sustained response.”
The surge in crossings prompted the Department of Homeland Security on Saturday to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the border to support a 90-day effort to receive, shelter and transfer unaccompanied minors who cross the border.
“I am grateful for the exceptional talent and responsiveness of the FEMA team,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasBiden administration defends handling of Haitians amid uproar DHS suspends horse patrols but ramps up Haiti repatriation flights Maxine Waters: What we witnessed with Haitian migrants takes us back hundreds of years MORE said in a statement. “Our goal is to ensure that unaccompanied children are transferred to HHS as quickly as possible, consistent with legal requirements and in the best interest of the children.”
The increase in numbers has become a growing concern for lawmakers on Capitol Hill. On Sunday, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs Democrats steamroll toward showdown on House floor Panic begins to creep into Democratic talks on Biden agenda MORE (D-Calif.) called the unaccompanied children crossing the border a “humanitarian challenge to all of us,” adding that the Biden administration “inherited a broken system at the border, and they are working to correct that in the children’s interest.”
On Monday, top House Republicans, led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyFifth House Republican comes out in support of bipartisan infrastructure bill Watch live: McCarthy holds briefing with reporters The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks MORE (R-Calif.), visited the border in El Paso, Texas, and criticized President BidenJoe BidenTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe House passes sweeping defense policy bill MORE’s immigration policies. McCarthy blamed the influx in border crossings and apprehensions on the president’s actions on immigration, and his decision to stop the construction of former President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE’s border wall.