Feds holding 12,800 migrant children in detention centers, report says

ICE detainees flash lights from cell windows back towards demonstrators from the upper floors of the Metropolitan Detention Center

ICE detainees flash lights from cell windows back towards demonstrators from the upper floors of the Metropolitan Detention Center

Almost 12,800 immigrant children are now being detained by the US government, a record-high figure spread across 100 federally contracted shelters that is five times higher than the amount held in May 2017, the New York Times is reporting.

This month, 12,800 children were in government-contracted shelters, in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, up from 2,400 in May of previous year. Any new surge in border crossings, which could happen at any time, could quickly overwhelm the system, operators said.

The number of migrant children detained in federal shelters has increased fivefold to 12,800 - even after the Trump administration ended its policy of separating children from their parents at the border, a source said. In June, the Trump administration put into place new policies that required sponsors of children to submit finger prints and announced that they could turn over information to immigration authorities.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a statement regarding the Times report saying that the number of "unaccompanied alien children apprehended are a symptom of the larger problem, namely a broken immigration system", and that HHS has a rigorous system for vetting sponsors out of concern for children's safety. The Trump administration announced Tuesday they are tripling the size of the shelter.

The newspaper obtained these immigration figures from members of Congress.

At the same time, the Department of Health and Human Services has diverted $169 million from other programs to fund immigrant detention, NBC News reported Wednesday. The shelter was supposed to close after a month, but will remain open through at least the end of the year.

Though Trump has halted the family separations, roughly 500 of the children who were separated in the spring remain in government custody and have not yet been reunited with their parents.

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Traditionally, most sponsors have been unauthorised themselves, and therefore are wary of risking deportation by stepping forward to claim sponsorship of a child. The "tent city" in Tornillo, Tex., costs about $750 per child, per day.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for resettling the kids, said the children were being kept at the facilities partly due to a risk of becoming victims of human trafficking.

"That is why HHS joins the president in calling on Congress to address this broken system and the pull factors that have led to increasing numbers at the USA border".

Federal officials say their vetting procedures are created to safeguard the children in their care.

Stories of such behavior have emerged through reporting in recent months as the shelter system has faced intense criticism by members of Congress and the public.

The surge is reportedly due to a slowdown in the government's system for placing children in the care of parents or relatives in the US. Some of those who work in the migrant shelter network say the bottleneck is straining both the children and the system that cares for them. "It increases the likelihood of things going wrong".

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