Biden admin to spend $86M on hotel rooms to house migrants, unaccompanied minors in custody tops 15K

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is spending $86 million on a contract for hotel rooms near the Southwest border to house some 1,200 migrant families who have illegally crossed into the United States.

The contract comes as the Biden administration struggles to cope with a rising number of mostly Central American migrants streaming into the country in the wake of policy changes made by President Joe Biden upon taking office in January.

In addition, thousands of unaccompanied minors, many in their mid-teens, are also flocking to the U.S. as federal resources to deal with the record influx are strained, Axios reported Saturday.

As for ICE, it is the lead Department of Homeland Security agency that supervises custody of illegal alien families and adults. The agency is rapidly converting detention facilities into processing centers so that migrants are not kept in custody past the 72-hour limit under federal law.

Nevertheless, having to contract with hotels in the region indicates that the government is having difficulty keeping up with the now-constant flow of humanity to the border.

Federal agencies have contracted with hotels in the past, including during the last year of the Trump administration, to handle an influx of migrants, particularly children. That said, under former President Trump’s emergency health order, those migrants were quickly returned.

Axios noted that hotel rooms may be safer for many migrant children and families but they are not required to follow safety rules to which immigration facilities must adhere.

Two factors appear to be feeding into the border crisis. For one, the number of migrant families apprehended as they crossed illegally into the country has more than doubled between the months of January and February. For another, far fewer people are being returned to Mexico; in October, 91 percent were returned, but that number dropped to 64 percent in January and is down to just 42 percent now, Axios reported.

Also, the Biden administration is not expelling minors.

The White House is reportedly pressuring the Mexican government to do more with its own immigration enforcement to stop migrants from transiting the country en route to the U.S., but it seems apparent the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration may not be doing all it can to help.

Meanwhile, according to Pricilla Alvarez, CNN’s immigration reporter, “There are now more than 5,000 children in CBP custody, up from 4,500 just days earlier, per docs obtained by CNN.”

“Of those, there are more than 600 children who have been in custody for over 10 days,” she noted in a tweet.

But CBS News reported on Saturday the number of migrant children in U.S. custody is much higher — 15,500 — and that more than 5,000 unaccompanied minors at a single CBP tent facility near the Mexican border.

“According to the government records, unaccompanied children are spending an average of 136 hours in CBP custody, well beyond the 72-hour limit outlined in U.S. law,” the outlet reported. 

In February, more than 9,400 unaccompanied minors crossed illegally into the U.S., which is a record for that month. But many more are on their way, and immigration officials expect March’s number to be far higher. Over the past 21 days, border officials say they have apprehended more than 500 migrant kids per day.

The Department of Health and Human Services notified Congress Saturday it would be opening another facility — this one in Pecos, Texas — specifically for minor migrant children.

“The staggering number of children in CBP custody is both heartbreaking and profoundly concerning,” Neha Desai, an attorney who is representing migrant minors in a current court case, told CBS News.

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Jon Dougherty

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