The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released 7,837 unaccompanied migrant children to domestic sponsors in December 2021. Nearly 10,000 are still detained and await similar transfers.
In December, HHS released 252 children against another 275 apprehended near border crossing points daily on average — showing little relief on rolling detention totals. The December figure is a sharp decline from the a high of 18,954 apprehended in July.
According to HHS, the numbers do not include children from Mexico. In most cases, those are immediately returned.
Many of the children are found abandoned by smugglers on the banks of the Rio Grande or in other remote areas. The children often carry little else but a phone number for relatives in the United States.
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 for the surge in unaccompanied children. The report found that migrant family units are voluntarily separating. Once a minor is in HHS care, the relative will enter the country illegally and claim the child to begin the family re-unification process.
About 9,000 unaccompanied migrant children entered the United States illegally and were apprehended by CBP in December. According to CBP, more than 146,925 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.
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 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.
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