The number of unaccompanied child illegal immigrants crossing the southern border has exploded in the first few months of the year, with more than 300 minors arriving every day on average — an amount that threatens to overwhelm the Biden administration’s already extended resources, according to a report on Thursday.
An average of 321 children have been referred to the custody of Health and Human Services daily by the Border Patrol, according to numbers for the week ending March 1, Axios reported, a significant uptick from the weekly average of 203 in late January and early February.
The total was just 47 the first week of January.
The Axios report, citing documents from HHS, also showed that the shelter system is now at 94 percent occupancy and is expected to hit its maximum capacity later this month.
The Biden White House said last week that it reopened overflow shelters on the border to deal with the influx of migrants after reducing their capacity because of the coronavirus pandemic.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said care of the children is a top priority of the administration.
“What we are doing is working as quickly as possible to process these kids into these HHS facilities … so we can then transfer them to families,” Psaki said last week. “This is a difficult situation. It’s a difficult choice.”
The report also said that an average of 174 children were released every day from HHS custody for the week ending March 1.
That’s an increase from the weekly average of 90 in late January and early February.
Children detained crossing the border without legal guardians are being held by the Border Patrol for longer than three days.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas denied there was a crisis at the border and only a “challenge” during a White House briefing on Monday and blamed any problems on how former President Donald Trump “gutted” the system with his immigration policies.
“It is hard and it will take time, but rest assured, we are going to get it done,” Mayorkas said, adding that it’s “important to understand what we have inherited, because it defines the situation of how it currently stands.”
“The prior administration dismantled our immigration system in its entirety,” he said. “Quite frankly, the entire system was gutted.”
But Trump, speaking at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida, said Biden’s executive orders voiding many of his immigration policies opened the border to migrants from Mexico and Central America.
“They’re all coming because of promises and foolish words. Perhaps worst of all, Joe Biden’s decision to cancel border security has single-handedly launched a youth migrant crisis that is enriching child smugglers, vicious criminal cartels and some of the most evil people on the planet,” Trump told the crowd.
Meanwhile, a number of President Biden’s top immigration officials are planning a trip to the Mexican border this weekend to review the situation, Axios reported.
“A trip is not finalized and the White House continues to work on locking in details and logistics for a potential visit,” White House spokesperson Vedant Patel told Axios.