Unaccompanied Migrant Child Apprehensions at U.S. Border Spike 636% in 2021

by RANDY CLARK 5 Oct 2021

The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) released 119,228 Unaccompanied Migrant Children (UAC) to sponsors as of the end of the 2021 fiscal year in September. The number does not include children who are citizens of Mexico already returned to their home country.

Much like the record-breaking apprehensions made by the Border Patrol during the fiscal year, the number of unaccompanied migrant children arrested crossing the border pales in comparison to previous records. The UACs account for nearly 9 percent of all southwest border migrant apprehensions. Nearly 11,000 unaccompanied migrant children were released to sponsors in September alone. There were 13,101 children still being held in federal detention still awaiting release, as of Friday.

By comparison, last fiscal year, 16,198 non-Mexican unaccompanied migrant children were apprehended, with most being swiftly returned to Mexico or their home country under the Title 42 Centers for Disease Control’s emergency COVID-19 order. The number of non-Mexican UAC apprehensions arrested this year increased by more than 630 percent when compared to last year’s total.

According to a Congressional Research Service report, the likely cause of the surge in the apprehension of unaccompanied migrant children is related to the discontinuance of their removal from the United States under the Title 42. The Biden Administration discontinued these removals in February 2021. Once the consequence of a swift expulsion to Mexico was halted, an immediate surge followed.

Although the administration discontinued the expulsions, the removal of migrant family units under the emergency order continued. The report indicates this resulted in family units voluntarily sending their children to the United States alone, contributing significantly to the rise in unaccompanied migrant children.

The costs associated with the surge is staggering, according to the Congressional Report. HHS opened 15 Emergency Intake Sites (EIS) in 2021. As HHS increased staffing, allowing for the speedy release of UACs to sponsors, the need for the sites was reduced and many closed. On some days, HHS released nearly 800.

At present, five EIS sites remain operational in Michigan, California, and Texas. In response to the increase in detention of the UACs, HHS reportedly transferred roughly $2.1 billion from other health related initiatives to cover cost, according to the congressional report.

HHS redirected $850 million intended to rebuild the Strategic National Stockpile, an emergency medical reserve. An additional $850 million, designated for COVID-19 testing, were redirected to UAC costs as well. Funding from other HHS public health initiatives to the tune of $436 million was also redirected.

According to the report, the Biden Administration estimated in May that an additional $4 billion would be needed to cover unaccompanied migrant needs through the end of 2021.