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May 8, 2021

With tens of thousands of unaccompanied migrant children staying in U.S. shelters, including many temporary ones set up in recent months, federal officials could need over a billion dollars to cover the mounting costs, according to documents published Friday by the New York Times.

 

The Department of Health and Human Services has rushed to accommodate a surge in unaccompanied minors by opening shelters in convention centers and other unusual places, costing around $775 per child per day, the Washington Post reported last month.

HHS was given permission this week to transfer $850 million from other parts of its budget to the unaccompanied minors program, and it could transfer another $847 million over the next few weeks, according to the document obtained by the Times.

 

 

The White House and HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

22,194. That’s how many unaccompanied minors were in U.S. custody as of Thursday, roughly 97% of whom are staying in HHS shelters, according to federal figures. More than 600 children remain in Border Patrol stations, often in facilities designed for adults.

Record numbers of children have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without their parents this year, overwhelming federal resources and leaving many children in crowded conditions. HHS is normally supposed to shelter unaccompanied minors until the federal government can track down parents or other U.S.-based sponsors, but HHS initially didn’t have enough beds for all of these children, so thousands were stuck waiting in cramped, makeshift Border Patrol tents until shelter spaces opened up. As a result, HHS quickly ramped up its capacity by opening temporary shelters, allowing the Border Patrol stations to largely empty out but imposing a massive burden on the federal shelter system.

HHS has gradually started moving more children out of its shelters and into the custody of sponsors. Some 576 children were discharged from HHS on Thursday, more than double the number of daily transfers in late March. But Border Patrol is still apprehending over 400 children at the southern border every day, meaning there’s still pressure on the system.