More migrant children than ever before are currently being detained in U.S. shelters, according to The New York Times, but it is not because greater numbers are crossing the border.
> Population levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children have quietly shot up more than fivefold since last summer, according to data obtained by The New York Times, reaching a total of 12,800 this month. There were 2,400 such children in custody in May 2017.
> The huge increases, which have placed the federal shelter system near capacity, are due not to an influx of children entering the country, but a reduction in the number being released to live with families and other sponsors, the data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services suggests. 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.
The majority of the children came into the U.S. without their parents, and many are Central American teenagers, The Times reported.
The new data, reported to Congress and shared with The Times, shows that President Donald Trump’s efforts to deter Central American migrants are not working: about the same number of children are crossing now as have in past years.
> The big difference, said those familiar with the shelter system, is that red tape and fear brought on by stricter immigration enforcement have discouraged relatives and family friends from coming forward to sponsor children.
> Shelter capacities have hovered close to 90 percent since at least May, compared to about 30 percent a year ago. Any new surge in border crossings, which could happen at any time, could quickly overwhelm the system, operators say.
The Trump administration announced Tuesday that it will triple the size of the temporary tent city in Tornillo, Texas, giving the make shift detention facility a capacity of nearly 4,000.
> Immigrant advocates and members of Congress reacted to the news with distress, because conditions are comparatively harsh in such large overflow facilities, compared with traditional shelters.
> Facilities like the one in Tornillo are also more expensive to operate, according to Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the shelter program. She said such facilities cost about $750 per child per day, or three times the amount of a typical shelter.