The number of unaccompanied minors stranded in makeshift Border Patrol facilities fell below 1,000 for the first time in over a month Thursday, as officials move children into shelters — but hundreds of minors are still crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without their parents every day.
Just 954 children were in the custody of Customs and Border Protection on Wednesday, an 80% decrease since the beginning of April, when about 5,000 unaccompanied minors were forced to stay in crowded Border Patrol holding centers designed for adults.
The total number of minors in federal custody still increased by nearly 30% this month, but the vast majority are now held in shelters run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which has opened up thousands of temporary beds in arenas and convention centers.
23,492. That’s how many unaccompanied minors are held by federal agencies, about 4% of whom are in the custody of Border Patrol and 96% of whom are with HHS.
When Border Patrol catches unaccompanied minors at the southern border, the agency normally transfers them to HHS shelters as quickly as possible, and HHS looks for parents or other U.S.-based sponsors who can take care of them long-term. This system was overwhelmed earlier this year, when a record number of children tried to cross the border. Plus, President Joe Biden ended the Trump administration’s controversial practice of expelling unaccompanied minors, so the government suddenly needed to find space for everybody. HHS’ shelter capacity was immediately strained, leaving thousands of children to sleep in barren and overcrowded Border Patrol tents for several days, even though they’re legally only supposed to stay with the agency for 72 hours. But in recent weeks, HHS has scrambled to open temporary shelters, allowing Border Patrol’s population to drop as more shelter beds become available.
What To Watch For
More children. CBP has apprehended an average of 448 unaccompanied minors on the southern border every day over the last month, a slight decrease from 502 children per day in March. HHS is now more efficient at placing children with parents and sponsors, discharging about 400 minors per day this week, but the number of children in federal custody has continued to grow for months despite these efforts.