An internal document, leaked from the Department of Homeland Security, shows nearly a thousand child migrants have been kept in border detention facilities for longer than 10 days — far longer than the maximum amount of time children are supposed to be housed in Customs and Border Protection custody, 72 hours.
Axios, which has been reporting on the child migrant crisis overwhelming the United States-Mexico southern border, received the DHS document, which demonstrates not just that children are being kept in CBP custody for longer than legally permissible, but that the crisis is rapidly worsening. The outlet reports that “823 unaccompanied migrant children have been held in border patrol custody for over 10 days — more than a fourfold increase over the past week.”
“The maximum amount of time a child is legally supposed to be held in border patrol custody is 72 hours. But as of Saturday, 3,314 unaccompanied children had been in custody longer, with 2,226 for more than five days and 823 for more than 10 days,” Axios noted Monday.
“The average time in custody for unaccompanied children continues to hover around 130 hours, exceeding the 72-hour legal limit, though the number of children in Customs and Border Protection custody dropped slightly to just under 4,900, documents show,” CNN added.
That number — 4,900 — does not appear to account for the full number of children being held at the border awaiting reunion with parents or other family members within the United States or to be expelled for a return trip home. Just days ago, CBS News reported that there could be as many as 13,000 children currently in CBP custody, spread out among CPB facilities, Heath and Human Services (HHS) facilities, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) facilities, including a massive super-facility that just opened in a stadium in Dallas, Texas.
The number does, however, demonstrate that the problem is ramping up, even as the Biden administration struggles with the overwhelming number of incoming migrants. “The trend is accelerating,” Axios reports, adding that, “last Monday, only 185 migrant children were being held in border patrol custody for more than 10 days.”
Conditions in border camps are cramped, according to legislators who toured detention facilities last week, with more than 100 children sharing a single room, some just six inches from each other on a floor lined with mattresses.
The Biden administration has largely prevented media from touring and reporting on the facilities or speaking to their residents, but Axios also obtained exclusive photos, taken, apparently without authorization, by one of the legislators who took the tour last week. Those photos show “crowded, makeshift conditions,” with kids crowded together on what appear to be plastic-lined mattresses, covered only in silver emergency blankets. The children and teenagers are grouped together in “rooms” separated by plastic sheets.
“Exclusive photos from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporary overflow facility in Donna, Texas, reveal the crowded, makeshift conditions at the border as the government's longer-term child shelters and family detention centers fill up.”https://t.co/WJnkV4zBFX pic.twitter.com/7XqagoPwak
— Jerry Dunleavy (@JerryDunleavy) March 22, 2021
CNN reports that, when asked about the conditions, “Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Sunday would not provide a timeline on when children at the border will be housed in more humane conditions, only saying it would be ‘as soon as possible.'”
The Biden administration has, of course, refused to call the situation a “crisis,” instead laying the blame for the sudden influx of migrants on the Trump administration’s strict immigration policies, and demanding that Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform.