Migrant children in detention soars to highest level ever: report

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The number of migrant children in detention centers has soared under President Trump to the highest levels ever recorded, according to The New York Times.

The Times reported Wednesday that the number of migrant children in federal custody has increased from 2,400 in May 2017 to 12,800 this month, according to data that was provided to Congress and shared with the newspaper.

{mosads}The surge comes despite hundreds of children who were separated from their families at the U.S.–Mexico border having been released under court order, the paper noted. 

According to the Times, the rise in the number of detained migrant children is not a result of an increase in children coming into the U.S. The number, instead, comes in response to a shrinking number of children being released to live with their families or sponsors, Department of Health and Human Services data suggests, 

Most of the detained children crossed the border alone, and many are teenagers from Central America, the Times notes. According to the paper, the number of migrant children crossing the border has remained relatively stable in recent years, but relatives and family friends now have been discouraged from sponsoring children due to red tape and fears surrounding stricter immigration enforcement.

The Times reported that shelters have hovered near capacity since at least May, noting that any increase in border crossings could “quickly overwhelm the system.” 

The Trump administration on Tuesday confirmed that it would triple the size of a temporary “tent city” in Tornillo, Texas, for unaccompanied migrant children. The shelter was supposed to close after a month, but will remain open through at least the end of the year.

The facility will expand to accommodate up to 3,800 children after originally opening in June with a 450-bed capacity.

Members of Congress told the Times that overflow “tent city” facilities like the shelter in Tornillio are harsher and more expensive to operate than traditional shelters.

“You are flying in the face of child welfare, and we’re doing it by design,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said. “You drive up the cost and you prolong the trauma on these children.”

The Trump administration faced a wave of criticism earlier this year for its “zero tolerance” policy at the border that resulted in thousands of children being detained separately from their parents, who were referred for criminal prosecution.

According to the Times, those children account for only a small fraction of the migrant children currently in detention.

The government ended the zero tolerance policy in June, though many separated families have not yet been reunited and hundreds of migrant children remain in government custody.

Tags Donald Trump Illegal immigration Rosa DeLauro Tornillo tent city Trump administration family separation policy
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