More than 20,000 children, mostly from Central America, are currently being held in facilities operated by Health and Human Services (HHS) at a taxpayer cost of at least $60 million per week.
Most of the children crossed the border illegally within the last two months.
In March, almost 19,000 unaccompanied minors—a record number—were apprehended by Border Patrol, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The number doubled from February, when 9,400 were apprehended, whereas the preceding three months hovered around 5,000 per month.
Border Patrol is required to transfer custody of unaccompanied minors to HHS within 72 hours. However, the sheer numbers have become overwhelming, and children are staying in crowded CBP holding facilities for sometimes more than a week.
HHS started releasing data on the number of unaccompanied minors it was holding on March 23—which was 11,551.
Since then, HHS has opened several emergency holding centers, including converted convention centers in Dallas, San Antonio, and San Diego, military bases in border states, and structures in interior states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan.
By April 15, 19,798 children were in HHS custody.
In addition, CBP is holding around 2,515 children.
The average cost to care for a child in a permanent facility is $290 per day, HHS officials told The Epoch Times via email. That cost jumps to approximately $775 per day for children in temporary emergency facilities “due to the need to develop facilities quickly and hire significant staff over a short period of time.”
HHS is charged with providing care to unaccompanied minors until they’re placed with a sponsor—most often a parent or close family relative who is already illegally living in the United States.
HHS has been releasing between 200 and 350 children per day to sponsors since March 23.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has directed the Texas Rangers and the Texas Department of Public Safety to investigate allegations of child sexual abuse and neglect in a San Antonio facility housing minors.
On March 24, President Joe Biden appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to head up the border crisis response. Harris has yet to visit the border and has said her focus is on dealing with the “root causes” of illegal immigration, primarily of Central Americans.
The Biden administration has been criticized for fueling a rush to the border after quickly rescinding many of the measures the Trump administration had put in place to stem illegal immigration.
In mid-2019, when the last influx of children overwhelmed Border Patrol facilities, Harris spoke at a press conference decrying the detention of children.
“What is happening with the detention of these children, the circumstances by which they arrived, is a human rights abuse being committed by the United States government. And so we are here to stand up and say that we are not going to allow this to happen—not on our watch,” she said.
“I will tell you, when elected, the first thing I’m going to do—one of the first things—is to shut down these private detention facilities. Just shut them down.”