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Number of unaccompanied migrant children in Customs and Border Protection custody falls 45%

The number of unaccompanied minors in US Customs and Border Protection custody, akin to jail-like conditions, has dropped 45%, according to the latest government data, amid an ongoing effort by the Biden administration to find suitable spaces to accommodate kids after facing scrutiny for overcrowded facilities.

As of Sunday, there were 3,130 children in the custody of CBP, an agency not intended to care for children for prolonged periods of time, marking a drop from the peak — 5,767 on March 28 — since the government started providing data, indicating progress in alleviating Border Patrol stations.

The average time in CBP custody for unaccompanied migrant children is still far above the 72-hour legal limit, though, hovering around 122 hours, according to data obtained by CNN.

Over recent days, officials have been transferring an increasing number of children out of CBP custody and into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees a shelter network for migrant children and has been opening a series of pop-up sites to house children until they can be released to a sponsor, like a parent or relative, in the United States.

As a result, the number of children in HHS custody has grown: As of Sunday, there were 18,027 children in HHS custody.

“What we are doing every single day is: ‘OK, where are we? How many people came in today? Where are they going? How many beds do we have? What are any blocks in the system to move kids out of the system to place them with their parents?'” a White House official previously told CNN. “It’s a million little things that add up to increasing this throughput of children.”

The Biden administration is spending at least $62 million a week to care for unaccompanied migrant children in HHS custody.

The daily cost per child is more than twice that of the department’s already established shelter program — at approximately $775 per day, compared to around $290 per day — according to figures shared with CNN. HHS cited the need to develop facilities and hire staff over a short period of time among the reasons why temporary shelters are more costly.

The Biden administration is also trying to fast-track that process and encourage parents or guardians, many of whom are undocumented, to collect their kids from custody. But until a sponsor is identified and vetted, children remain in US custody.

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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