The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released more than 5,000 unaccompanied migrant children to sponsors in November 2021. Another 13,644 are still detained and await similar transfers.
In November, HHS released an average of 179 children against another 366 apprehended near border crossing points daily — showing little progress on rolling detention totals.
According to HHS, the numbers do not include children from Mexico. In most cases, those are immediately returned.
Findings documented within a recent Congressional Research Service report identify the discontinuance of removals under the Title 42 COVID-19 emergency order as the likely cause of the surge in unaccompanied migrant children. The report found that migrant family units are voluntarily sending their children into the United States alone. Once the minor is in HHS care, the relative will enter and claim the child to begin the family re-unification process.
About 10,980 unaccompanied migrant children entered the United States illegally and were apprehended by CBP in November, down from 12,647 in October. According to CBP, more than 140,000 unaccompanied migrant children were encountered in Fiscal Year 2021.
Health and Human Services previously opened more than a dozen emergency intake sites to deal with the influx of children. These facilities often make use of vacant oilfield man camps and COVID-shuttered convention centers.
Unlicensed facilities have 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 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 more than $3.4 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.