More than 3,250 unaccompanied children are being held in packed, jail-like facilities along the US-Mexico border — a figure that has more than tripled over the past two weeks as the crisis continues to escalate, a report said Tuesday.
That tally includes more than 1,360 kids detained for more than 72 hours, the point by which they must be transferred to shelters under law, the New York Times reported, citing documents it obtained.
As they wait to be brought for shelters, the children are being kept in small concrete rooms inside Customs and Border Protection detention facilities meant for adults, the report said.
The facilities have been criticized for their crowded, squalid conditions, particularly troubling amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The figures underscore the extent to which conditions have spiraled along the border since President Biden took office and began dismantling former President Donald Trump’s more stringent immigration policies.
About 9,000 unaccompanied children crossed the border in February alone, NBC News reported, citing government data it reviewed.
Central American migrants have crossed the border in droves in recent weeks, including some 800 ousted when Mexico shut down a massive camp in Matamoros being used under Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.
Of 1,553 migrants to pass through the main bus station in nearby Brownsville, Texas, between Jan. 25 and March 6, 185 — or nearly 12 percent — have tested positive for COVID-19, Felipe Romero, a spokesman for the border town, has said.
The situation has grown so dire that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has reportedly put out a call for volunteers in agencies under his purview to lend a hand to overwhelmed CBP workers, as the White House admitted Monday that more needs to be done to stem the tide.