CBP projects unaccompanied children will surpass 2014 crisis

Report details trauma of separated migrant children
Evelio Contreras/CNN

The number of children arriving without a parent at the southern border is expected to surpass the levels during the 2014 unaccompanied minor crisis, according to Customs and Border Protection data obtained by CNN.

CBP expects that by Sept. 30, more than 100,000 unaccompanied children will be apprehended on the border or encountered at a port of entry, based on projections using data from prior years.

During fiscal year 2014 — when the numbers of unaccompanied children overwhelmed Border Patrol stations and sparked public outcry — 72,750 children arrived alone at the US southern border, according to a Department of Homeland Security official.

At the time, the Obama administration took a number of steps to address the surge, which included, adding additional enforcement resources, creating additional detention space for families, and creating a new child and family court docket. Additionally, the US government worked with Mexico and Central American countries to discourage illegal migration.

These “short-term policies” were a “success” and greatly reduced the numbers of women and children arriving at the southern border, according to a report by the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute written after the 2014 surge.

But, the report also found 2014 policies did “not advance longer-term solutions.”

Apprehensions of children at the border have already been on the rise this year. US Border Patrol has apprehended 26,937 unaccompanied children in fiscal year 2019, more than 9,000 more than during the same time period last year, according to the most recently available government data.

The majority of unaccompanied children are between 12 and 17, according to a DHS official.

This latest surge comes as the administration has been warning of a crisis at the southern border, with families and children arriving in numbers not reached in a decade. Earlier Friday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said “the system is in freefall.”

CBP refers unaccompanied migrant children to Health and Human Services, which houses them in shelters and attempts to place them with a sponsor in the United States.

CBP is struggling to place children in HHS custody in a timely manner, according to a senior DHS official.

“Children’s lives are being put at risk,” said the official who added, “HHS is out of capacity, so what that means is that children are staying in CBP care at border facilities while awaiting bed space at HHS and it is not a place for children.”

CNN reported Thursday that the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement, which manages the unaccompanied minor program, is preparing for the arrivals of unaccompanied children in its care to double this fiscal year to more than 60,000, according to an HHS official.

Earlier this week, HHS spokesperson Evelyn Stauffer said in a statement their department “continues to receive children referred to our care from the Department of Homeland Security and place them in an appropriate shelter as safely and quickly as possible.”

“The program will continue to evaluate needs and capacity in order to care for the hundreds of UAC that cross the US border daily,” Stauffer said.