The Biden administration is moving another 500 unaccompanied children from border facilities under U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody to an emergency holding facility as part of efforts to reduce overcrowding.
The children are scheduled to arrive at the National Association of Christian Churches site in Houston, Texas, which has been transformed into an Emergency Intake Site used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office on Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
The HHS made similar statements earlier this week to announce the opening of additional overflow facilities to address the significant surge of illegal border crossings at the U.S. southern, particularly by unaccompanied minors. Children have been placed in HHS facilities in Fort Bliss and San Antonio.
While most single adults and some families are being turned back, the Biden administration has been accepting all unaccompanied minors—children who unlawfully enter the country without an adult. About 17,200 unaccompanied minors were in the custody of either CBP or HHS as of March 29, according to the HHS Administration for Children and Families.
The administration is currently seeking to build capacity for 13,500 beds, with the potential for additional capacity in order to meet what has been a continuous flow of unaccompanied minors coming across the border.
The Biden administration is currently racing against time to divert resources to manage the sharp increase in illegal immigration in recent weeks. Upon taking office, President Joe Biden reversed several Trump-era immigration policies, including his predecessor’s key Migrant Protection Protocol, which sought to end the problematic Obama-era “catch and release” system that is credited for significantly stemming the flow of illegal immigration in 2019.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who is leading White House efforts to deal with the crisis, will be focusing her efforts to address the “root causes” of migration, “not the border,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday.
Biden tapped Harris to lead the administration’s effort last month, saying that she is the “most qualified” person to handle the task, as he trusted her to speak for him on the issue.
During the month of March, Border Patrol apprehended more than 150,000 illegal border crossers—50,000 more than February—according to former CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan.
A further 30,000 evaded capture, according to Morgan, who has received the provisional CBP numbers from internal sources.
U.S. Border Patrol agents and local authorities have reported appalling incidents of human smugglers leaving unaccompanied children at the border or in the Rio Grande river. A special tactical team operating along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas said that agents rescued a 6-month-old baby who had been thrown off a raft into the Rio Grande River by smugglers earlier in March.
Similarly, U.S. Border Patrol announced on Thursday that agents rescued two toddlers who had been dropped from the top of a 14 foot border barrier into the middle of the New Mexico desert that night. A video of the incident was shared on Twitter by El Paso Sector Chief Patrol Agent Gloria I. Chavez.