Number of migrant kids detained by Trump admin hits record high, yet again
Vulnerable asylum seekers waiting for weeks at the southern border for the chance to ask for asylum in the U.S. aren’t the immigration crisis, the immigration crisis is the ongoing detention of vulnerable migrant children, the population of which has, yet again, hit a record high, the Trump administration confirmed last week. “Currently, there are approximately 14,000 minors in the unaccompanied alien children program, a number that can fluctuate up or down,” said Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesperson Evelyn Stauffer.
In September, the administration confirmed 12,800 kids in federal custody, the previous record. By comparison, HHS had 2,400 kids in custody in May 2017. Looking at the administration’s recent actions and trends, this number will only go up before it goes down, because Trump officials have only expanded and prolonged a prison camp for migrant kids in the Texas desert, and taken steps to make it harder for migrant kids to go to sponsors, who are oftentimes family members.
The includes the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests of dozens of potential sponsors who have stepped forward to take in a child, leading to two Democratic senators, Kamala Harris of California and Ron Wyden of Oregon, to introduce a bill to protect potential sponsors. This should be a no-brainer to pass, but congressional Republicans have fallen in anti-immigrant line at their own electoral peril. The Democratic House, though, should take it up and pass it next year.
What’s also risking ballooning the number of detained children even more is the fact that Donald Trump’s nominee to head ICE, Ronald Vitiello, has refused to rule out whether the administration will officially revive family separation at the southern border, even as children kidnapped from parents under this policy are still in U.S. custody nearly 120 days past a federal judge’s deadline. When every day in detention is another day of trauma, enough.
“Right now,” Sen. Harris said in a statement, “unaccompanied children are being held in detention facilities or living in tent cities due in part to potential sponsors’ fear of retribution from ICE for coming forward. This is an unacceptable obstacle to getting these children into a safe home, and we must fix it.”