The number of unaccompanied children detained by the border patrol has fallen 88% since late March, when US migrant detention centers becamewhile thousands of miners crossed the southern border alone.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) held 677 unaccompanied children over the weekend, compared to 5,767 unaccompanied minors the agency had in its custody on March 28, Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters on Sunday.
Unaccompanied children were spending an average of 130 hours in border patrol custody in March, beyond the agency’s statutory three-day deadline to transfer them to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Mayorkas said unaccompanied minors are now held at border patrol facilities for an average of 20 hours.
“The progress we have made is spectacular,” Mayorkas said on Sunday.
Nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children came into custody at the US border in March, an unprecedented monthly record. Record arrivals quickly overwhelmed the U.S. government’s infrastructure for dealing with unaccompanied minors. The largest border patrol facility for migrant children had a capacity of 1,640% at the end of March, holding more than 3,200 unaccompanied minors in a tent designed for 250 people.
Acute overcrowding forced the Biden administration to convert convention centers, military sites, and labor camps into makeshift shelters. So far, HHS has opened more than a dozen of these emergency facilities in Texas and California.
Mayorkas in marchthe Federal Emergency Management Agency, which helped set up makeshift shelters and called on Department of Homeland Security employees to volunteer to help treat unaccompanied minors. Mayorkas said on Sunday that 400 employees of the U.S. citizenship and immigration services had volunteered.
By setting up makeshift shelters, the Biden administration was able to speed up the treatment of unaccompanied children. In April, the border patrol transferred an average of 653 unaccompanied minors per day to HHS, a marked increase from the daily average of 369 in March, according to government data.
As of the end of last week, HHS was sheltering more than 22,500 unaccompanied children in its network of shelters and emergency shelters. The refugee resettlement office within HHS is responsible for placing migrant minors with sponsors, who are usually family members living in the United States.
Unlike the border patrol, the HHS has full-time child protection professionals and case managers trained to deal with migrant minors and tasked with reuniting them with their families in the United States.
The number of unaccompanied migrant children seen in April is likely to be lower than the record high in March, as an average of 441 non-Mexican unaccompanied minors are placed in border patrol custody per day in April, according to preliminary government data. However, the figure is still likely to be a record for any April in history.
“The numbers remain high,” Mayorkas said on “CBS This Morning,” noting that April data is expected to be released this week. “Let them be as high as in March but mined.”