Nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children were nabbed jumping the border in March, Homeland Security revealed Thursday, doubling the number from February and shattering the previous record of about 11,500, set in May 2019.
The children were only a fraction of the total of 172,331 illegal immigrant encounters recorded last month by Homeland Security, with about 168,000 of those nabbed by the Border Patrol. That’s the highest monthly number in 20 years.
Of those, about 103,000 people were expelled under coronavirus pandemic emergency orders, but the unaccompanied children and tens of thousands more parents and children traveling as families were not able to be expelled under current policies.
The numbers undercut President Biden’s assertion at a March 25 press conference that the “vast majority” of families are being sent back.
In reality, the March numbers show a majority of families are being processed and released into communities.
Unaccompanied children, meanwhile, are supposed to be sent to shelters run by the federal Health and Human Services Department, which then looks for sponsors to take them.
HHS had lacked the capacity to take many of the children, leaving them mired in Border Patrol holding cells, but a rush effort by the Biden administration has begun to turn the corner.
As of Tuesday, Customs and Border Protection had 4,228 unaccompanied children in its custody — still crisis levels — but an improvement from the 5,767 that were being held on March 28.
Children are now being transferred out faster than they’re coming in to the Border Patrol.
That does, however, leave HHS managing a staggering population of children — more than 16,000 as of Tuesday.