Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is reportedly holding a record number of unaccompanied child migrants in border facilties, leading to a shortage in accommodations for the children as nearly half of them have been held past the 72-hour legal holding limit.
According to the New York Times, “The number of unaccompanied migrant children detained along the southern border has tripled in the last two weeks to more than 3,250.”
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki refused to confirm the number of migrant children being held in the border facilities, saying "it's not our program" (despite the departments and agencies that deal with migrant children falling directly under the Executive Branch). She did admit, however, that there has been a massive influx of migrants, including illegal immigrant children, that have overwhelmed border facilities beyond their capacity.
On top of opening up new border facilities to deal directly with minors and allowing facilities to operate at pre-COVID capacity levels, CBP is currently housing some children in small concrete cells that were originally designed to hold adult migrants. The cells are often referred to as "iceboxes" due to the cold temperatures, and they typically contain only a concrete or metal bench.
According to NBC News, government data shows that around 9,000 unaccompanied migrant children crossed the border in February, an increase of over 3,000 individuals compared to January. Border officials expect as many as 13,000 to cross in May.
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Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas brought senior Biden administration officials to holding facilities along the border in an effort to help them devise a plan to address the immigration surge. The administration has so far declined to let media outlets tour the facilities they've recently opened for migrant kids.
Julissa Reynoso, chief of staff to the First Lady and who was among the group, said Monday, "We did speak to many of the folks involved, including children. We're trying to manage this in an orderly fashion but very mindful of the human cost here and in light of the fact that we are talking about kids. So that is something that we are managing."