Immigrant Children In Detention Centers Reaches Record High

Honduran asylum seekers.
Mario Tama / Getty Images

The number of undocumented immigrant children held in U.S. detention centers has reached an all-time high — nearly 12,800 — Newsweek magazine reported this week as the controversy surrounding potential reunification with their parents grows.

The figure, first reported by The New York Times, is stated to be five times more than detained children U.S. authorities held in May 2014, noted Newsweek.

The growing numbers hit an apex following the implementation of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy towards undocumented immigrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, the policy demanding that presumed parents and their children were separated for a period of time after they were taken into custody, the magazine stated.

Some 2,500 minors were separated from their presumptive guardians until the policy was rescinded in June following nationwide protests over the policy, Newsweek noted.

The Trump administration announced Tuesday, according to the Dallas Morning News, that it will triple the capacity of its immigrant detention camp outside of El Paso, Texas due to the great influx of detained children.

The facility at Tornillo, Texas houses 12,800 children, but will be expanded to accommodate 3,800 more, the newspaper reported. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services oversees that facility and more than 100 other shelters housing detained children, the Dallas Morning News wrote.

The newspaper said that minors are staying at the facilities an average of 59 days, almost double the average stay time for undocumented minors detained in 2014.

The New York Times reported that many of the children in the camps are teenagers from Central America, who have attempted to cross the border alone. Even though the Trump administration had hoped the zero tolerance policy would discourage crossings, the Times found that Central American immigrants have crossed the southwest border at roughly the same rate as before.

That has put the capacity of many of the shelters near 90 percent, some 60 percent higher than what they were in 2017, the Times reported.

Immigration reform activists, including family members of detained undocumented immigrants, protest in front of the York County Dentention Center on Sept. 15, 2015 in York, Pennsylvania. John Moore / Getty Images

Resolving the legal issues surrounding familial separation continued to be top of mind this week in U.S. courts. The Washington Post reported Thursday that some 1,000 undocumented immigrants claiming asylum that were previously rejected will get a second chance to apply via the settlement of a recent lawsuit in their favor.

The agreement, which still requires federal court approval, will offer those particular claimants a second shot at making their case with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — where they must show a “credible fear of persecution or torture” if returned to their home countries, the Post reported.

“The exact plaintiffs are slightly different in the different cases,” Johnathan Smith, legal director for Muslim Advocates — one of the groups involved in the court cases — told the Washington Post. “… But essentially the cases are on behalf of the parents and the children who were separated from their families at the border who had come seeking asylum.”