The number of immigrant children held in detention facilities in the United States has skyrocketed over the past year, according to a New York Times report published Thursday.
The report cites “data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services” and was shared with members of Congress, who then gave the information to the Times. It reveals the Trump administration is currently holding at least 12,800 immigrant minors in various detention facilities across the country. In May 2017, the number was around 2,400.
“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 Times wrote. “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.”
A large number of children are teenagers from Central America who came to the United States as unaccompanied minors — alone, without their parents. The teens are mostly being held in “a system of more than 100 shelters” with a heavy concentration along the U.S.-Mexico border.
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Scores of immigrant children have been detained at the U.S.-Mexico border over the past six months, under President Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy. In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions expanded the policy to include family separations, forcibly removing children as young as infants from their parents and locking them in juvenile detention camps, with the youngest — those under 5 years old — placed in “tender age” facilities.
Although President Trump later reversed course, signing an executive order in June ending the practice he had put in place previously, his legal woes continued, with immigration lawyers and advocates filing suit against the administration this summer in an attempt to speed up reunifications of those families. More than 400 minors remain separated and detained due to immigration officials’ decision to deport many parents without their children, and the administration has chosen to foist those reunification responsibilities onto organizations like the ACLU.
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