Congressman Cuellar Issues Statement on Increase In Unaccompanied Children Arriving at Southern Border
Today Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) issued the following statement in response to the announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that they will begin the process of expanding their temporary capacity to house unaccompanied children.
“As I have warned repeatedly, we must not take our eye off the ball on the issues of curbing the flow of undocumented crossings of unaccompanied minors and families from Central America at our southern border. In October and November we saw 10,588 undocumented unaccompanied minors apprehended at the border, along with 12,505 family units -- more than double the number we saw in the same two months last year (5,129 and 4,577, respectively). Generally, over the last few years, the number of apprehensions decreases after the summer. However, this year, there has been a steady uptick in illegal crossings, causing concern that this year may be worse than 2014, when we saw 68,541 apprehensions of unaccompanied children at the southern border.
“The Department of Health and Human Services, the federal agency tasked with caring for these children, who are mostly from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, before they are seen by an immigration judge, has announced that they have begun the process of requesting temporary shelters to house these children should this increasing trend continue. HHS is currently requesting an additional 6,400 temporary beds. The normal cost per day per child for a bed is $219; however, these temporary facilities will exceed that figure. According to HHS, of the children referred to the agency recently, a third have been from Honduras, a third from Guatemala, a third from El Salvador, and a small remainder from all other countries. The number of apprehended children referred to the agency has increased over the past several months. In July, 3,745 were referred, followed by 4,314 in August, 4,173 in September, 4,603 in October, and 5,555 in November. According to HHS, most years see a decrease in the number of referred children after August and September, but this year’s increases have led to the preparation of temporary shelters.
“I have stated that we must provide assistance to our Central American friends who are leaving their homes. To that end, and in my capacity as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I’ve requested an increase in funding, over Fiscal Year 2015 levels, to assist Central America in their fight against criminal gangs, drug traffickers and organized crime, and to increase their own border security and combat human smuggling and trafficking. I thank Kay Granger, chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, and Nita Lowey, ranking member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, for their assistance in seeking this increase in funding.
“Here at home, I’ve called for increased transparency at our nation’s immigration detention facilities to ensure those apprehended are treated humanely and are provided appropriate nourishment and medical care. I have also requested 55 new federal immigration judges to reduce the backlog of cases and reduce bottlenecks in dealing with the surge in illegal immigration. All of which was included in the House of Representatives Appropriations bills and I’m calling to be included in the omnibus package.”
To see the latest Unaccompanied Children Statistics as reported by CBP, click here.
To see the latest Family Unit and Unaccompanied Children apprehension numbers as reported by the U.S. Border Patrol, click here.