migrant children minors
© Ed JONES / AFP
March 27, 2021 two unaccompanied seven year-old child immigrants who arrived illegally across the Rio Grande river from Mexico stand at a makeshift processing checkpoint before being detained at a holding facility by border patrol agents in the border city of Roma.
The number of migrant children being held in Border Patrol facilities is more than double the record that was set in June 2019 during the Trump administration, the Washington Examiner has learned.

As of Sunday, 5,767 unaccompanied minors were being detained inside cells at Border Patrol facilities near the U.S.-Mexico border. In comparison, only 2,600 children were documented in custody at the height of the 2019 border crisis, according to federal data exclusively obtained Monday evening.

The figures underscore the magnitude of the situation on the border, which President Joe Biden and Democrats have refused to recognize as a "crisis." The number of children in Border Patrol facilities is also far higher than the number of children separated from their parents under President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" initiative that mandated children be taken from their parents so that the adults could be prosecuted. In other words, Biden is presiding over more unaccompanied children in government custody than when Trump intentionally separated migrant children from their families. Federal data for the end of Trump's tenure were not available.

Although it has not labeled the border situation a crisis, the Biden administration has redirected personnel from other Homeland Security agencies around the country to Texas, where more children are coming over the border with each passing day.

Each week, sometimes more than once a week, new overflow facilities are opened to hold the influx of children. Border Patrol is packing children into tents and rooms, images shared by lawmakers this month revealed, as it waits for facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services to open up bed space. HHS will hold children until it can find sponsors in the United States to whom they can be released. They will live in the country and face immigration proceedings, likely not until years down the road.

The number of migrant children in HHS facilities, as opposed to Border Patrol ones, peaked in December 2018 at 14,226. As of Sunday, the department hit 11,886. Combining HHS and Border Patrol figures, the Biden administration has more than 17,500 children in custody, more than the largest two respective figures from the Trump peaks in 2018 and 2019.

The administration has blamed the emergency on Trump policies. "We are digging out of a broken system over the past four years — not just the inhumane policies, but the fact that there were never efforts put in place to look for and seek shelters where these children could be safely and humanely housed," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

Children are supposed to be taken into custody if they show up alone and cross the international boundary. U.S. law forbids the immediate deportation of single children on the basis that they may be victims of human trafficking. Children from Canada and Mexico are exempt.

Last March, the Trump administration opted not to take any adult or child into custody over concerns that a coronavirus outbreak inside the small rooms would spread quickly and instead returned people south of the border or to their home countries. Biden opted in January to stop returning the thousands of Central American children showing up each month.

The trouble for Biden is that since then, the number of children coming to the U.S. has surged and is expected to continue rising for months. Rep. Filemon Vela, a Texas Democrat, called on the administration to send back teenagers, but the government has not budged. More than 117,000 children are expected to show up alone at the southern border.
Anna Giaritelli is the Homeland Security Reporter for the Washington Examiner