(CNN) — More than 4,000 unaccompanied migrant children are in Border Patrol custody, CNN learned, marking another increase in quantity children detained at border facilities until officials can accommodate them in appropriate shelters for them.
The fast pace with which children arrive adds further stress to the system, leaving them in prison-like facilities for extended periods. As of Sunday, there were about 4,200 unaccompanied children in Border Patrol custody.
Once the children are in the custody of the Border Patrol, they are turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is charged with the care of migrant children. But in the middle of coronavirus pandemic, the department has been affected to try to adapt to the influx, since the shelters operated until recently with limited capacity.
During the weekend, the Secretary of National Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, ordered the Federal Agency for Emergency Management (FEMA, for its acronym in English) that will help to receive, house and transfer the children.
“I am grateful for the exceptional talent and responsiveness of the FEMA team,” Mayorkas said in a statement. “I am incredibly proud of the Border Patrol agents, who worked around the clock in difficult circumstances to temporarily care for the children in our care. However, as I have said many times, a Border Patrol facility is not a place for a child. “
A Homeland Security official previously told CNN that the increase in the number of children arriving at the border has attracted a lot of attention and meetings are ongoing “at the highest level.”
“This is going to be very difficult to stop,” said the official.
The career of the government to house migrant children marks an early and critical test for President Joe Biden, who took office promising to reverse what he called cruel policies implemented by former President Donald Trump that made it difficult for people fleeing poverty and violence will come to the country.
Now, Biden is working to strike a balance between promoting a more humane approach to immigration while, at the same time, sending the message to would-be immigrants who don’t come.
At the peak of the 2019 border crisis, when there were overcrowded facilities and children sleeping on the ground, there were about 2,600 unaccompanied children in Border Patrol custody, previously told CNN a former patrol official.
CNN’s Geneva Sands and Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism