From [HERE] and [HERE] The number of migrant children in federal detention centers has increased from 2,400 children in May to 12,800 children in September, according to data [NYT report] from the Department of Health and Human Services [government website] that Congress released to the New York Times.
According to the data, the increase in detained children is due to fewer children being released to family members and not more children entering the US. Most of the detained children are from Central America and arrived in the US as unaccompanied minors. Unaccompanied minors are supposed to be placed with family members in the US. However, the process has slowed, which the New York Times attributed to the Trump administration changing policies. For example, the administration now requires family members to be fingerprinted and shares the data with immigration officials.
The new data shows that despite the Trump administration’s efforts to discourage Central American migrants, roughly the same number of children are crossing the border as in years past. The big difference, said those familiar with the shelter system, is that red tape and fear brought on by stricter immigration enforcement have discouraged relatives and family friends from coming forward to sponsor children.
Shelter capacities have hovered close to 90 percent since at least May, compared to about 30 percent a year ago. Any new surge in border crossings, which could happen at any time, could quickly overwhelm the system, operators say.
The children are detained in about one hundred shelters throughout the US, and the shelters are almost filled to capacity.
The administration appeared to move to address that on Tuesday, when it announced that it will triple the size of a temporary “tent city” in Tornillo, Tex., to house up to 3,800 children through the end of the year. Immigrant advocates and members of Congress reacted to the news with distress, because conditions are comparatively harsh in such large overflow facilities, compared with traditional shelters.
Facilities like the one in Tornillo are also more expensive to operate, according to Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the shelter program. She said such facilities cost about $750 per child per day, or three times the amount of a typical shelter.
The system for sheltering migrant children came under scrutiny this summer, when more than 2,500 children who were separated from their parents were housed in federally contracted shelters under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance border enforcement policy. But those children were only a fraction of the total number of children who are currently detained.
In June a federal judge ordered [JURIST report] reunification of migrant children who had been separated from their families. The judge extended [JURIST report] the deadline in July. However, the reunification injunction applied mainly to children who arrived in the US with their families and not unaccompanied minors.