By Sandra G. Leon
A new count of the number of undocumented minors in federal custody is at a record high with more than 3,200 children being held in facilities while they await being reunited with family or being placed in suitable shelters.
Just one week ago the number of minors in federal custody was 1,700 children.
The numbers were released after a trip to the border this past weekend by senior US officials of the Biden Administration. The group toured a new facility recently opened in Carrizo, Texas, opened specifically to handle minors.
As of today, the officials have not yet briefed President Joe Biden on their trip.
The new Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, and Julissa Reynoso, Chief of Staff to First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, were part of the trip delegation. Susan Rice, the new head of Biden’s Domestic Policy Council, was also part of the tour. Rice previously served as President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor.
“We did speak to many of the folks involved, including children,” Reynoso told reporters today. “We’re trying to manage this in an orderly fashion but very mindful of the human cost here, and in light of the fact that we are talking about children,” she added.
Children which are apprehended by Border Patrol must be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for their care. A recent study showed that the average time minors are being held by Border Patrol is 77 hours. The majority of the minors are 13 years-old or older.
The number of unaccompanied minors being apprehended at the US-Mexico border has grown in recently weeks. The new number of children in custody is greater than the previous high of 2,600 in 2019 when large caravans of migrants from Central America matched to the border.
Experts suggest that more migrants may be making the trek toward the US in recent months due to COVID-19 impacts in their home countries, two recent hurricanes, and a belief that the new Biden Administration will be more accommodating that the US policies toward immigrants under Donald Trump.
A new proposal in Congress to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants only affects those already within the US on or before January 1, 2021, not new arrivals.