The number of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) crossing the border illegally since February 2021 stands at 243,850. In Fiscal Year 2020 under the previous administration, 34,126 UACs were encountered. The surge has resulted taxpayer costs exceeding $6 billion in 2021 alone.
On average, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 350 UACs are apprehended daily by Customs and Border Protection, which includes the Border Patrol. HHS assumes custody of UACs from countries other than Mexico to locate sponsors within the United States. Then, HHS releases the minors to await a final decision on their immigration cases. According to HHS, the 30-day average of releases is 368 per day.
In Fiscal Year 2021, more than 127,000 UACs were transferred to HHS. According to a Congressional Research Service report, funding for the Unaccompanied Alien Children for 2021 was initially provided at $1.3 billion. The report indicates HHS reportedly transferred roughly $2.1 billion from other health-related initiatives to cover the cost of the UAC surge during the year.
According to the report, the redirected funds included $850 million intended to rebuild the Strategic National Stockpile, $850 million intended for COVID-19 testing, and $436 million intended for multiple HHS health initiatives. In addition, the Biden Administration reportedly estimated in May 2021 that it would require an additional $4 billion before FY2021 ended to fund shelters and provide re-unification services to locate sponsors for the children. An exact accounting of the total spent has not been released by HHS.
Although the released unaccompanied migrant children are expected to show up to subsequent immigration proceedings, the report indicates the overwhelming majority are no-shows. Of the more than 41,000 cases adjudicated between 2017 and 2021, a mere fraction of the total referrals to HHS, 25,638 resulted in removal orders. More than 19,000 of the total removal orders were in absentia.
The sudden increase in unaccompanied migrant children as President Biden assumed office began after immediate changes were made to border enforcement policies. Almost immediately, the Biden Administration stopped expelling children under the CDC Emergency Title 42 order.
The order that once resulted in an almost immediate expulsion of most UACs to Mexico discouraged most attempts to cross the border illegally. According to HHS, in fiscal year 2021, the predominate nationalities of unaccompanied children were from Guatemala (47%), Honduras (32%), and El Salvador (13%). Only 8% of the remaining UACs were from other nations.
During the previous administration, UACs from these three countries would have been amenable to expulsion under the Title 42 CDC emergency order.
As reported by Breitbart Texas, the surge has resulted in the creation of numerous facilities across the country to accommodate the UACs. The cost per day for those unaccompanied migrant children in temporary shelters is more than $750.
As of Wednesday, there are approximately 10,293 unaccompanied migrant children in HHS care. At the end of April 2022, the average length of detention for each migrant child was 28 days.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.