Agents and officers detained 834 illegal immigrant children traveling the border without parents on Tuesday, shattering the previous daily total in records released by the Department of Homeland Security and signaling the situation on the U.S.-Mexico border is deteriorating.
The numbers on illegal immigrant children had been growing steadily worse for several weeks, with multiple days of 600 or more children from non-contiguous countries taken into custody.
As of Tuesday, nearly 2,800 children were mired in border patrol facilities, with new arrivals coming faster than the government can transfer them out, despite big efforts to do so.
The federal Health and Human Services Department placed 612 children with sponsors on Tuesday alone, a torrid pace that some security experts say likely places children at risk because there’s not enough time to investigate where they are being sent. But even at that pace, it was not enough to keep up with the 834 new arrivals.
The previous high point for children in daily records released by Homeland Security was 747 on April 6. Homeland Security began releasing daily tallies in March.
Most children who show up without a parent are ages 15 to 17, though authorities report children as young as just a few months who have been carried across.
Agents in Arizona last week found a group of six illegal immigrants being shuttled north from the border in a Ford Expedition — including a 2-year-old unaccompanied child. Other migrants in the party told agents foot guides, the smugglers hired to blaze the trail through the desert, carried the child from Sasabe, on the Mexican side, to a load-up spot in the U.S.
The children are the toughest cases in the border surge, but they are only a small fraction of the total.
Early indications are that border authorities made more than 200,000 arrests in July, which would be the highest rate in more than 20 years. The monthly number has steadily increased during the Biden administration, undercutting the president’s insistence that the surge was cyclical and happens every year.
Most of the encounters lead to immediate expulsion under a pandemic health emergency order begun by the Trump administration and kept in place by the Biden team.
But tens of thousands are being caught and released each month, swelling the ranks of illegal immigrants already in the U.S.
Unaccompanied children are supposed to be quickly transferred out of border facilities to HHS, where they are placed with sponsors, usually relatives who themselves are here illegally.
That process can take weeks, and the children can face rough conditions while in HHS shelters. The department’s inspector general this week announced an investigation into conditions at one shelter in Texas.
Analysts say the Biden administration invited the surge of children by creating an exception for them in its pandemic border shutdown policy.