Illegal-immigrant children are once again surging across the border at record pace, with last week seeing the worst three-day period since Homeland Security began releasing daily records in March.
And the unaccompanied children are once again beginning to stack up in Border Patrol facilities that all sides agree are no place for them to be mired, renewing a problem the Biden administration thought it had licked.
As of Friday’s data, Border Patrol stations held more than 2,000 children, for the first time since April 21.
The overcrowding was powered by a surge in unaccompanied juveniles caught and held by Border Patrol, which tallied 706 new minors on Tuesday, 601 on Wednesday and 646 on Thursday. That was the highest three-day number since the Biden administration began releasing daily data.
And data released Monday shows children are still entering the country faster than they can be released by Health and Human Services, the federal department charged with caring for the children until they can be placed with sponsors.
Over the previous five days’ worth of data, the Border Patrol tallied 2,765 apprehensions of unaccompanied minors from non-contiguous counties, while HHS released only 2,397.
The children are the most troubling part of a surge that has overwhelmed border security and left the Biden team scrambling for answers.
Rep. Chip Roy, Texas Republican, tweeted out preliminary numbers from July which he said showed the Border Patrol arrested more than 205,000 people. That would be the worst month yet for the new administration, and further puncture claims of President Biden and his top officials that the surge was “seasonal” and happens annually.
Mr. Roy said the Border Patrol tracked 37,400 more people who evaded them.
More children coming means more of them mired in the HHS facilities.
The department’s inspector general on Monday announced an audit of one of those facilities, an emergency tent city set up at Fort Bliss, Texas.
The review is expected to be completed this year, and will look at whether HHS was properly caring for the children and working quickly enough to get them released.
“In the months since Fort Bliss EIS (Fort Bliss) opened, several individuals have raised concerns about the quality of case management provided there, and its negative impact on children’s safety and well-being,” the HHS inspector general said in announcing the investigation as part of its updated work plans.
Two whistleblowers, both federal employees who volunteered to work at Fort Bliss, have said they saw children’s needs ignored and said companies the government contracted to help at the facility didn’t have properly trained or qualified workers.
More stark were the evaluations of court-appointed monitors, who in June reported girls at Fort Bliss faced “frequent lice outbreaks” and the facility’s shortage of socks and underwear was so severe that some girls were refusing to shower because they had no clean clothing.
“Some of the girls would stay in their bunks for most of the day and ask to skip meals. In May 2021, it was reported that girls experienced panic attacks, and several were removed from the residence tents on stretchers for outside medical treatment,” the monitor said.
Volunteers, pulled off duty from other federal departments and rushed to Texas, weren’t trained in what to do, the monitor said.
Those volunteers have been replaced with contract employees, but the monitor said the contractors “come from companies with little experience in supervision of children in facilities” and will need training.
The complaints were bad enough that Vice President Kamala Harris’s office said she and President Biden had ordered HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to make a trip to investigate.
But Mr. Becerra, who did make a trip to the site, characterized the visit as a routine check-in, and used it as an opportunity to say they were making progress on getting the kids out of custody.
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