The number of children in immigrant detention centers has increased five times in little over a year — and it’s not because more children are entering the country illegally. According to the New York Times, 12,600 immigrant children are in custody of the United States government, and not as many people are stepping forward to sponsor them.
In May of 2017, 2,400 immigrant children were being held in detention. If someone wanted to sponsor a child and get them out of the attention centers, it was much easier than it is today. Now, new policies make the child-sponsoring process more difficult, lengthy, and intimidating for immigrant families who would otherwise come forward.
Monthly releases of the migrant children have decreased by two-thirds. In June, the Trump administration put into place new policies that required sponsors of children to submit finger prints and announced that they could turn over information to immigration authorities.
As a result, according to CNN, daily discharge rate for unaccompanied immigrant children is down to 0.6 per hundred, from 2.0 per hundred in 2017:
“With a population of 12,800 children, over a 30-day month that would translate to only 2,304 released, vs. 7,680 at the old rate. That means more than 5,000 more children kept in custody per month.”
Number of Immigrant Children Detained by the U.S.:
Most of the children currently detained crossed the border alone with no family. While there are still hundreds of children in U.S. custody that are separated from their parents following the policy from the Trump administration, they make up a small number of the total children in the network of over 100 detention shelters nationwide.
According to the New York Times, these shelters have been at about 90 percent capacity since May, and that’s worrying the workers there, who are more used to the about 30 percent capacity that the shelters were at last year.
“The closer they get to 100 percent, the less ability they will have to address anything unforeseen,” said Mark Greenberg, who oversaw the care of migrant children for the Health and Human Services Department under former President Barack Obama, to the Times. “Even if there’s not a sudden influx, they will be running out of capacity soon unless something changes.”
So the Trump administration is looking for a solution, but not one to decrease the amount of children held, rather a solution to house a possible influx of children.
The costly solution is tent shelters. The “tent city” in Tornillo, Tex., costs about $750 per child, per day. The Trump administration announced Tuesday they are tripling the size of the shelter.
The administration insists that the fault is not on them, but on Congress for not passing changes on immigration laws.
“The number of unaccompanied alien children apprehended are a symptom of the larger issue of a broken immigration system,” Evelyn Stauffer, press secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. “That is why H.H.S. joins the president in calling on Congress to address this broken system and the pull factors that have led to increasing numbers at the U.S. border.”