By Rebecca Gibian / September 14, 2018

Why The Detention Of Migrant Children Is At Highest Level Ever

The number of migrant children being housed has increased more than fivefold since last summer.

migrant children
Children and workers are seen at a tent encampment recently built near the Tornillo Port of Entry on June 19, 2018 in Tornillo, Texas. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The overall number of detained migrant children has exploded to the highest ever recorded, reports The New York Times, a significant counternarrative to the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce the number of undocumented families coming to the United States.

Since last summer, population levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children have shot up more than fivefold. This month, the total reached 12,800. In May 2017, there were 2,400 such children in custody.

The huge increases have placed the federal shelter system near capacity, but it is not due to an influx of children entering the country. Instead, it is because of a reduction in the number being released to live with families and other sponsors, reports The Times, according to data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services. People who work in the migrant shelter network say the bottleneck is straining both the children and the system that cares for them.

Most of the children crossed the border alone and are housed in a system of more than 100 shelters across the United States. Many are teenagers from Central America. Despite the Trump administration’s efforts to discourage Central American migrants, about the same number of children are crossing the border as in years past. The biggest difference, according to The Times, is the red tape and fear brought on by stricter immigration enforcement, which has discouraged relatives and family friends from coming forward to sponsor the children.

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