U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) continues the rapid pace of releasing unaccompanied alien children (UAC). A Wednesday HHS report notes the Biden Administration released 10,189 to sponsors in the U.S. throughout June.
The number of UACs in federal custody dropped from a high of nearly 23,000 in May to 15,550 on Wednesday, due in part to the speed at which they are being released. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas deployed a volunteer workforce from multiple federal agencies to assist HHS to quickly process, transfer, and ultimately release the UACs to sponsors.
One Member of Congress believes the Biden Administration should seek out professionals to deal with the children. In a statement released Wednesday, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX) highlighted the border crisis in the House Appropriation Committee’s first full markup for Fiscal Year 2022.
Gonzales spoke in support of Congressman Ken Calvert’s (CA) amendment requiring an emergency declaration from the president before deploying federal employees to the southern border:
Every day I’m on the border. Every day I see unaccompanied children, by the thousands, that are left alone. Regardless of their legal status, these are innocent children, and we cannot have volunteers taking care of these children. We have to have professionals. In El Paso, there is 1,600 unaccompanied children at Fort Bliss, 120 of which have been there for greater than two months. This is a national crisis that deserves the attention if we are going to solve this, beyond just pushing a political football around.
The flow of unaccompanied migrant children is still in full swing. As HHS released the UACs to sponsors in June, more than 8,000 more were apprehended and placed in Border Patrol custody–resulting in marginal reductions to the total number of UACs detained.
Health and Human Services opened more than a dozen Emergency Intake Sites to deal with the influx of migrant children. These facilities make use of vacant oilfield man camps, buildings, and COVID-shuttered convention centers.
These unlicensed facilities faced criticism due to insufficient staffing, drinking water issues, and COVID-19 protections. Earlier this year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott sharply criticized the Biden Administration over conditions at multiple HHS detention facilities, specifically citing a water issue in Midland plus a COVID-19 outbreak in Carrizo Springs.
HHS estimates the cost to detain a child in Emergency Intake Sites is $775 per day. In other long-term facilities, they indicate that cost to be approximately $275 per day. Based on these estimates and the number of UACs currently in custody, the cost to the American taxpayer stands at nearly $6 million daily.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.