There were a record-high number of unaccompanied minors who crossed the southern border of the United States in February, but officials are preparing an even more robust number of unaccompanied children to attempt to enter into the U.S. in May.
A Health and Human Services official informed Axios, "We're seeing the highest February numbers that we've ever seen in the history of the [Unaccompanied Alien Child] program." The Unaccompanied Alien Child program was started in 2003 by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and has "provided care for and found suitable sponsors for almost 409,585 unaccompanied minors."
The Wall Street Journal reported this week, "The number of unaccompanied immigrant children arrested for crossing the U.S. southern border illegally is on pace to rise more than 50% in February compared with the previous month, people familiar with the matter said, raising the prospect of a humanitarian crisis there."
The report said there have been about 2,200 children illegally crossing the U.S. southern border each week in February, increasing during each week. The government estimates that approximately 9,000 minors will be taken into custody by month's end.
February's figures are far higher than January when U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported taking 5,707 unaccompanied illegal immigrants under age 18 into custody, which was an increase of 18% compared to December.
Border officials anticipate that the number of unaccompanied minors will surge in May, with as many as 13,000 children attempting to enter the United States, which would eclipse the peak of the 2019 crisis. Axios reported that the CBP warned senior-level officials with the Department of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and the State Department about the potential humanitarian crises during a telephone meeting on Thursday.
With the influx of children, the Biden administration will need facilities capable of housing the minors. The HHS, which oversees the child shelter network, is reportedly working with the Pentagon to secure overflow sites such as military bases. Children could be housed in tent-like structures, which were previously utilized in 2014 and 2019. Housing is already stretched thin because the coronavirus pandemic has reduced capacity to comply with social distancing protocols.
The Miami Herald reported that the Biden administration plans to reopen the previously named Homestead Detention Center in Florida, which has been renamed as a much more pleasant-sounding Biscayne Influx Care Facility.
There were reportedly over 900 children at border patrol posts waiting to be transferred to a shelter on Friday, "100 of them waiting longer than the 72-hour limit allowed by law," a source told the WSJ.
"When the children can't be quickly sent to shelters, they remain in the custody of the Border Patrol," the Wall Street Journal reported. "Cells in Border Patrol facilities aren't designed to house children and its agents aren't trained to care for children."
"HHS's child migrant shelters were at 93 percent of their operational capacity but only 53 percent of the capacity funded by Congress," NBC News reported. "They were receiving an average of 252 new children a day last week, while they were able to discharge only 97."
On Monday, it was revealed that the Biden administration officially reopened a Texas housing facility for up to 700 migrant children along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Trump administration opened the facility for one month in 2019. The decision to reopen the facility enraged many Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Former President Donald Trump will make his first major public appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday in Florida, where he is expected to take aim at President Joe Biden's immigration policies.