More than 125,000 children traveling without parents have shown up along the U.S.-Mexico border to be taken into custody under the Biden administration, an unprecedented figure, according to data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
From February through August, 112,433 unaccompanied children were found after crossing the southern border, the Washington Examiner reported, citing CBP data.
The Department of Homeland Security has not released official numbers for child arrivals in September or in the first 15 days of October, the Washington Examiner noted. But data from the Department of Health and Human Services reveals approximately 15,000 additional children were encountered by federal law enforcement in that period, for a total of more than 125,000 children, the news outlet reported.
The 125,000 arrivals in less than nine months is higher than the 12-month record of 80,000 set in 2019.
Children smuggled to the United States come primarily from poor Central American countries south of Mexico but are now also coming thousands of miles away from South American nations, the data showed.
"They’re smuggled but not trafficked, necessarily," Theresa Cardinal Brown, managing director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank in Washington, told the news outlet.
Since March, between 14,000 and 19,000 single children have come over the border each month; until this year, the record for children encountered in a single month was 11,861 in May 2019, the Washington Examiner reported.
The Biden administration's focus on quickly releasing the children has made the U.S. government into the facilitator for human smuggling, Andrew Arthur, a former federal immigration judge, told the Washington Examiner.
"The reason that the smugglers are sort of abandoning these children is because they know that [the Department of Homeland Security] is going to find [the parent]," said Arthur, resident fellow in law and policy at the conservative Center for Immigration Policy think tank in Washington. "We have helped them perfect their business model. If they simply drop them over the wall then they're not going to get arrested by DHS because they can just flee back to Mexico while DHS is too busy taking care of the kid."
The troubling surge in unaccompanied children at the border comes as more than 1.7 million migrants were apprehended along the Mexico border during the 2021 fiscal year that ended in September — with arrests by the Border Patrol soaring to the highest levels ever recorded, The Washington Post reported, citing unpublished CBP data it obtained.
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