More than 81,000 unaccompanied minors have been released to sponsors inside the U.S. over last two years, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The U.S.-Mexico border has experienced a surge in unaccompanied minors entering the country illegally over the past couple years. As the HHS data reveals, most of these unaccompanied minors have been relocated to states around the U.S.
Last fiscal year, which ended on September 30, 27,520 accompanied minors were placed with sponsors in the U.S. In FY 2014, the government placed another 53,518 unaccompanied minors throughout the U.S.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is part of HHS, has placed children in every state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia. States with the highest numbers of unaccompanied minors over the past two years include California (9,587), Florida (8,330), Georgia (3,075), Maryland (5,668), New Jersey (4,120), New York (8,570), North Carolina (2,897), Texas (10,618), and Virginia (5,563).
In FY 2014 Border Patrol apprehended more than 68,540 unaccompanied minors attempting to illegally enter the U.S. via the southern border. Another 39,970 unaccompanied minors were apprehended illegally crossing the border in FY 2015. Most of these minors are from Central America — largely from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Unaccompanied minors from noncontiguous counties are granted special protections, including a court hearing and access to the U.S. under the care of a sponsor while they await those hearing. The government places the vast majority of these unaccompanied children with a relative in the U.S.
“When a child who is not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian is apprehended by immigration authorities, the child is transferred to the care and custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR),” HHS explains. “Federal law requires that ORR feed, shelter, and provide medical care for unaccompanied children until it is able to release them to safe settings with sponsors (usually family members), while they await immigration proceedings. These sponsors live in many states.”
Notably, HHS officials have testified before Congress that the government does not verify the immigration status of the sponsors with whom they place the minors. The vast majority of minors are placed with family members.