An increase in the number of unaccompanied migrant children crossing the southern border indicates a summer surge might be under way, the Washington Examiner reported Tuesday.
After more than 500 children were encountered daily by Border Patrol through much of March and April, the number had dropped to below 300. However, recent data showed that more than 530 children appeared at the border on June 23, the Examiner said.
The most recent data, released June 25, showed that nearly 15,000 young migrants are being held at government facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Examiner said that total did not include approximately 2,000 children who either were found at the border, transferred from Border Patrol to HHS, or released into the country on that day.
Immigration opponents have not complained as loudly as they did under the Trump administration because unaccompanied children now are being transferred to HHS within 24 hours instead of being held in jail-like Border Patrol facilities for days or week, the Examiner reported.
But although the Biden administration has hastened young migrants’ transportations to HHS-run outdoor tents or convention centers nationwide, children still are being detained for approximately one month.
Government workers spend the month searching for an adult to whom the child can be released. The young migrant will be discharged to a family friend or other adult, or placed in childcare programs, if no parent or close relative can be found.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra visited an emergency facility for unaccompanied children at the Army’s Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, on Monday. The facility has been accused of holding children in conditions so poor that some children have attempted suicide, according to the Examiner.
The Biden administration, in an attempt to speed up release, lowered the standard for selecting adult sponsors. One example is that adults who claim children no longer are fingerprinted, as the Trump administration had required, the Examiner said.
The 15,000 young migrants in HHS custody marks a decrease from 25,000 in May. That’s at least partly due to more than 38,000 children having been released to adult sponsors in the country since February.
Children released into the U.S. will face immigration proceedings, but likely not for years down the road due to the 1.1 million case backlog, the Examiner said.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told the Examiner the Biden administration’s changes to make it easier for adults to claim children is "encouraging" children to travel to the U.S. and placing them in a "dangerous" situation.
"The Administration is reducing critical protections for unaccompanied children in an effort to expedite processing and place them with sponsors," said Portman, ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
"The Biden Administration should require fingerprinting and criminal background checks of potential sponsors and all adults in the household and home visits, as well as notify state governments before placing children in those states."
The Biden’s administration decision to end the Trump administration’s "Remain in Mexico" policy — immigrants waited at the Mexican border while their asylum claims were processed children — resulted in a higher number of unaccompanied migrant children being encountered.
Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of The Bipartisan Policy Center's immigration and cross-border policy, said the Biden administration is pursuing a long-term solution for children and adults to seek asylum. However, the surge has forced the government to focus on the current increase in migrants.
"The day to day is not really something we can control," Brown told the Examiner. "It’s the migrants themselves that decide when they’re going to come."
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