More Than 4,000 Migrant Children Held By CBP ahead of GOP Border Visit

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About a dozen asylum seeking unaccompanied minors from Central America in Penitas, Texas, March 14, 2021 (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

The number of unaccompanied migrant children in Customs and Border Protection custody soared this week, with more than 4,200 children in short-term holding facilities as Republican lawmakers are set to visit the border on Monday to address the unfolding crisis.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and a dozen of his members will be in El Paso, Texas to press President Biden over the crisis at the border, which has led to children being detained in jail-like stations unfit to house minors for days, according to CBS News.

While CBP is legally required to transfer most unaccompanied minors to the Office of Refugee Resetttlement (ORR), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), within three days of taking them into custody, CBP currently has nearly 3,000 unaccompanied children who have been held longer than 72 hours.

The number of unaccompanied children in CBP custody has increased 31 percent from early last week, while the number of children being held longer than three days has more than doubled as an average of 565 unaccompanied minors entered CBP custody each day last week, according to a CBS News analysis of government records.

Unaccompanied minors are spending an average of 117 hours in a Border Patrol facility, records show, which Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has called “no place for a child.”

Though almost 9,500 unaccompanied children entered U.S. border custody last month, the number of teens and children arriving from Central America has only continued to grow in March.

Lawyers who interviewed minors in U.S. custody on Thursday to conduct oversight as part of a federal court case said children were being held in overcrowded facilities and reported sleeping on the floor, being hungry, only showering once per week, and being unable to contact family members.

CBP’s Rio Grande Valley, Texas sector is currently operating at 363 percent capacity, while sectors in El Paso, Texas and Yuma and Tucson, Arizona are similarly overcapacity as well.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has allowed the refugee agency to loosen social distancing restrictions and return to the number of beds it had before the coronavirus pandemic struck, it has struggled to keep up with the influx of minors entering U.S. border custody.

The refugee office currently has roughly 9,000 children in custody.

“We are working in partnership with HHS to address the needs of unaccompanied children, which is made only more difficult given the protocols and restrictions required to protect the public health and the health of the children themselves,” Mayorkas said in a statement Saturday, in which he announced Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials would be deployed to help process migrant minors.

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