More Than 16,500 Unaccompanied Minors in CBP, HHS Custody

March 24, 2021 Updated: March 26, 2021

A total of 16,513 unaccompanied minors were in the custody of either Customs and Border Protection (CBP) or the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as of March 23, according to the HHS Administration for Children and Families.

CBP had custody of 4,962 minors, while 11,551 were in the hands of the HHS. The Biden administration has committed to releasing a daily tally of the unaccompanied minors in custody amid growing pressure for transparency amid an escalating crisis on the southern border.

CBP apprehends minors who cross the border illegally and holds them in custody until they are processed for transfer to HHS, which holds the minors until they are placed with a family member or sponsor in the United States.

The Biden administration’s practice is different from the one under former President Donald Trump, in which immigration authorities sent unaccompanied minors—children who unlawfully enter the country without an adult—back to their home countries. Republicans say President Joe Biden’s decision to release minors into the United States serves as a magnet for more migrants to make the trek and cross the southern border illegally.

The detention facilities for minors are severely overcrowded. Recently leaked photos show minors huddled close together in thermal blankets.

According to the daily tally sheet, children from Mexico are being treated differently to illegal immigrants from other countries. The children are being sent back to Mexico, according to the document.

In 80 percent of the cases, children in HHS custody have a family member in the United States, according to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). In 40 percent of the cases, the family member is either a parent or legal guardian.

“These children are reunited with their families who will care for them. The children then go through immigration proceedings where they are able to present an application for asylum or other protection under the law,” a statement from ACF reads. “The administration is monitoring the border and marshaling all corners of the government to find compassionate and fair solutions.”

The White House is under increasing pressure to address the influx of unaccompanied minors. Biden on March 24 appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to handle the border crisis.

Shortly after taking office, Biden issued an exemption on Title 42 deportations for unaccompanied minors. The Trump administration had used Title 42 authority to send back illegal aliens, due to concerns over the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a bill on March 24 that would require asylum-seekers from the Northern Triangle countries—Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—to apply for refugee status at asylum centers outside the United States. The proposal would also afford equal treatment to unaccompanied minors from the Northern Triangle as those from Canada and Mexico.

Under the current law, unaccompanied minors from Mexico and Canada are returned to their home countries.

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