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  • May 15, 2021

Exclusive: Number of unaccompanied kids in harmful border facilities has dropped nearly 90% since March

 Exclusive: Number of unaccompanied kids in harmful border facilities has dropped nearly 90% since March

“As of late last week, HHS was housing more than 22,500 unaccompanied children in its network of shelters and emergency housing facilities,” CBS News said, reporting that “Border Patrol in April transferred an average of 653 unaccompanied minors per day to HHS, a marked increase from the 369 daily average for March, according to government data.” 

The Biden administration also noted significant drops in wait times for children in both HHS and CBP custody. CBS News reports that Mayorkas said that the length of time that children are spending in CBP custody has lowered, from an average of 130 hours in March to 20 hours now. The outlet reported at the time that 3,000 children had been detained past the 72-hour legal limit, with as many as 500 of them being held for as long as 10 days.

Like Jayapal said, this is another huge improvement—but we need to keep lowering that number until its as close to zero as possible. Mayorkas himself has said that these facilities are “no place for a child.” Two court-appointed inspectors who in April found that CBP facilities were “stretched beyond thin” also said these sites “are not appropriate for minors, in any event.” 

In HHS’ case, CNN reports that the administration said “[t]he average time that children are being reunited with a sponsor has been reduced to 29 days, down from 40 days on February 22. Children being reunited with a parent or guardian is less, taking about 22 days.”

The Biden administration in March issued guidance to speed up the release of children in HHS custody, including instructions to cover travel fees around the release of a child to a sponsor. “If this is successfully executed, it will have a great impact on the number of kids in custody,” Bridget Cambria, an immigration attorney and advocate for detained children, tweeted at the time.

The administration also rescindedbarbaric policy by the previous administration that made immigrants who stepped forward to sponsor a child in HHS custody vulnerable to deportation. While NBC News reported the policy had already “been largely disabled,” a number of potential sponsors were taken into custody by federal immigration officials during its use. In another change, the administration also announced that it would be reinstating a program that allowed Central American children to join parents who are already in the U.S. and have lawful status.

Republicans have largely responded to the number of children in Border Patrol stations with stunts including camouflage and machine guns, and instead used these children as an excuse to not move forward on immigration reform legislation popular among the public. Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, one of the legislators who participated in one of the border stunts, teamed up with Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema to introduce legislation targeting the border that policy experts say in fact “resurrects harmful policies from the Trump administration.”

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