Number of migrant children in federal shelters hits record, as facilities near capacity

  • The number of migrant children being held in federal shelters has risen to 12,800 this month, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday evening.
  • That number represents a more than fivefold increase since last May, setting a record, according to a report in The New York Times, which first reported the numbers.
  • The dramatic rise was caused by a reduction in the number of children being released to live with family members or other sponsors, according to the data reviewed by the Times, and not by an influx of children migrating into the country.
Migrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under the "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are being housed in tents next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018.
Mike Blake | Reuters
Migrant children, many of whom have been separated from their parents under the "zero tolerance" policy by the Trump administration, are being housed in tents next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 18, 2018.

The number of migrant children being held in federally contracted shelters has risen to 12,800 this month, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday evening.

That number represents a more than fivefold increase since last May, setting a record, according to a report in The New York Times, which first reported the data.

In May 2017, the number was 2,400, the Times said. The increase in the number of children held in government shelters has strained the facilities, which are now near 90 percent capacity, versus 30 percent a year ago. The government operates about 100 such facilities.

The dramatic rise was caused by a reduction in the number of children being released to live with family members or other sponsors, according to the data reviewed by the Times, and not by an influx of children migrating into the country.

The Trump administration's immigration policies came under scrutiny earlier this year following the implementation of the so-called "zero tolerance" policy, which involved the forced separation of thousands of migrant families at the border. The administration has since struggled to reunite hundreds of those families in compliance with a court order.

"The Trump Administration continues to enforce current laws to address our Nation's crisis at the border," HHS spokesperson Evelyn Stauffer said in a statement Wednesday. "The number of families and unaccompanied alien children apprehended are a symptom of the larger problem, namely a broken immigration system."

Read the full report from The New York Times.